New Orleans voters will see only one item on Saturday: a Millage proposal to fund early childhood education. We summarize what you need to know before you vote.
Knowing dates, times and places
Election day is Saturday April 30th. Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m
You can look up your polling location on the Louisiana Secretary of State website here.
Here is the language you will see on the ballot
Should the City of New Orleans be authorized to support early childhood development and education in New Orleans by imposing a $5 million special tax in 2042), with all tax proceeds earmarked solely for programs and capital investments that provide childcare and educational opportunities for children in the Orleans community who have not yet entered kindergarten and with an estimated collection of $21,274,959 in the first year if the foregoing special tax is collected at full?
How would the mill work?
The $5 million property tax would provide funds for programs for children who have not yet entered kindergarten.
This means that for every $100,000 of property value, homeowners would pay an additional $50 per year, which is above the $75,000 exemption for homesteads a report by the Bureau of Governmental Research, an independent public policy research organization in New Orleans. The BGR spoke out in favor of the proposed Millage.
If the proposal goes through, the city would start collecting the tax in 2023 and it would run for 20 years.
Revenue from the first five years of the tax would be managed by the local nonprofit Agenda for Children and the Orleans Township School Board through a City Council-approved agreement. Proceeds would go to an existing program funded by the city, city seatsthat provides low-income families with access to quality childcare.
The City Seats program began in 2018 and ministered to 50 children with $750,000 provided by the city from its general fund. Since then, the city has increased funding for the program to $3 million and supports 200 children from households earning less than $43,920, which is double that federal poverty line for a family of 3 in 2021 according to the BGR report.
Last year, the state matched the city’s $3 million and expanded the program to serve 200 more children.
If voters approve Millage’s proposal, the city estimates that it will bring in gross revenue of $21.3 million in its first year.
The majority of these funds would be used to expand the City Seats program to 1,000 children by 2024, according to the city’s spending plan detailed in the BGR report. With an expected grant from the state early childhood fund, the program could expand to 2,000 children.
The City Seats program currently serves 400 children: 52 toddlers, 89 one-year-olds, 112 two-year-olds and 147 three-year-olds website. Over 8,300 children in Orleans Parish are eligible for the program and are currently unserved, according to Agenda for Children and partner groups.
Proceeds would also fund child and family support services through City Seats, expand capacity for early learning centers, and fund outreach and registration coordination programs.
Advocates organized under the campaign banner of Yes for NOLA Kids have argued that the city urgently needs more public funding for affordable childcare. According to the campaign website, only a quarter of low-income children ages three and under have access to publicly funded early childhood education in New Orleans.
Hamilton Simons-Jones with the Yes for NOLA Kids campaign spoke out on the funding source at a school board meeting in January.
“We know that children who have access to quality early care are less likely to need special education, retain a grade, drop out of high school, develop a chronic illness in adulthood, and become involved in the criminal justice system,” says Simons – Jones said.
Who is for it? Who is against?
Mayor LaToya Cantrell has spoken out in favor of the Millage proposal, as have several City Council members including Council President Helena Moreno, Joe Giarrusso, Freddie King and Oliver Thomas. District Attorney Jason Williams has also supported the proposal. US Congressman Troy Carter also supports them.
Four of Orleans Parish School’s seven board members have endorsed it: President Olin Parker, Vice President JC Romero, and members Katie Baudouin and Ethan Ashley. The full board has signed a contract with the city and Agenda for Children, which would send $1.5 million annually from the mill to the New Orleans Public School District, which is dedicated to managing enrollments for early childhood education programs. The contract is concluded when the millage is passed.
A long list of community groups have also supported the proposal, including the United Way of Southeast Louisiana and the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children. Business organizations such as the Business Council of New Orleans & the River Region and the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce also support him.
The proposal has met with little organized opposition.
That’s a change from last time, when an early childhood mill was on the ballot in December 2020, when a ballot proposal pushed by Mayor Cantrell would have cut the city’s public library budget to fund City Seats. The proposal was rejected after library advocates campaigned against it.