New Orleans Officials Promise More Action Against Illegal Rentals and Street Vendors As Budget Hearings Begin | Local politics

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The illegal affairs were at the center of the first day of New Orleans City Council’s annual budget hearings on Monday, with city officials admitting they had been unable to attract short-lived rental operators. term rogue and unlicensed street vendors.

In addition to defending their share of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s $ 652.1 million general budget proposal, the hearings provide an opportunity for department heads to publicly discuss the overall state of their operations. Concerns about illegal operators were raised during the Finance Ministry’s presentation, when CFO Norman White told board members that the administration intended to do more to crack down on “pop-up” vendors.

“We have to be more aggressive. We will become more aggressive, ”White said.

The finance department houses the accounting, purchasing, treasury, income and retirement offices, and also serves as the city’s tax collector. While officials did not provide an estimate of what the city could lose due to illegal business operations, they noted that 31 sales tax audits generated $ 921,000 in additional revenue. More are expected next year, as the ministry recovers from staff shortages linked to the pandemic.

When it comes to short-term rentals, platforms like Airbnb don’t identify a unit list when remitting sales taxes to the city, preventing finance staff from verifying if the payments match the actual number of units. ‘units in commerce, White said. The city audits businesses annually, officials said, but businesses do not provide discernible information such as property tax identification numbers on their platforms.

The revelation surprised District B council member Jay Banks, who said Airbnb and other rental platforms could be free to cheat the city at will.

“They might very well beat us every time they send a check,” Banks said, prompting White to admit “that’s a problem, definitely about it.”

One potential solution sought by the administration is to associate commercial short-term rental advertisements with authorized addresses in order to identify those that are operating illegally. The administration is hiring a software developer to do the work, with proposals from potential vendors expected Monday.

District C council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer said she welcomed efforts to end illegal short-term rentals, but became uncomfortable when tax collector Romy Samuel said the software would be used to collect tax revenue from illegal operators who charge bogus taxes to tenants.

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Although officials pointed out that the software was meant to root out bad actors, Palmer said she feared city officials might be tempted to look away from permits and other rules if given a way. pumping out illegal short-term rentals for tax revenue.

“I don’t want this administration to start using this as a way to incentivize and not worry about these illegally exploited STRs because they’re a godsend,” Palmer said.

Palmer and Cyndi Nguyen, a member of the E District Council, spoke in particular about what they described as a proliferation of unlicensed vendors. Nguyen said the problem was hampering retail investment in his district.

“We don’t want them to not work. We want them to work properly, with responsibility, ”Nguyen said. “There is a perception that you can get away with anything in the parish of Orleans.”

Council members also blamed White for what they said was the contractors’ failure to pay on time. Although White said 90% of invoices are paid within 30 days, he also acknowledged that some departments have been slow to adopt new procurement procedures.

” We are run out of time. This needs to be corrected and corrected now, ”said Council President Helena Moreno.

Staff from the New Orleans Public Library and the Chief Administrative Office also made presentations on Monday, and additional hearings are scheduled each day through November 19. A property tax of roughly half of the library’s $ 21 million in revenue is due to be renewed on December 11. ballot. Failure in miles would result in drastic reductions in programming, but library director Gabriel Morley said he was confident it would pass.

“The first information we have indicates that we believe we are going to have a very positive result,” said Morley.

Among the dozen items on Tuesday’s agenda are presentations from the Sanitation, Parks and Walks, and Public Works departments, as well as the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, French Market Corp. and Municipal Yacht Harbor Corp.

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