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Paying For Prison Consent Decree Big Question In Proposed New Orleans Budget

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s 2014 city budget proposal is complete and ready for City Council review, but there is still one big question mark.

The goal of the Orleans Parish Prison Consent Decree is to bring conditions at the notorious city jail into constitutional compliance, but it will not come cheaply. The Landrieu administration believes it will cost about $7 million per year, while Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has estimated the price tag will be much higher — at $22.5 million per year. 

The mayor’s budget, however, doesn’t allocate any money to pay for the upgrades. He said that funding the decree would wipe out the city's first budget surplus in five years.

"To give more money to the Sheriff, this proposed $4.25 million savings account would go back down to zero," Landrieu said. "Anything more would mean even further cuts to our city agencies."

The mayor’s top deputy told City Council members on Tuesday that funding the decree, as well as decisions on potential cuts, may be left up to them during upcoming budget hearings.

The federal judge overseeing the consent decree is asking the city and the sheriff to work together to reach an agreement, rather than waiting for the courts to settle it.

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