Orleans Parish Millage for the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Zoo
Audubon Commission currently collects 3.31 mils in property taxes that are dedicated to Audubon Zoo and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. These millages were approved by voters in 1972 and 1986 and are due to expire in 2021 and 2022.
In an effort to more equitably distribute funding, Audubon joined together with City Park, NORDC, Parks and Parkways to propose a reallocation of the current millage rates that allows for a fair and equitable share of taxpayer dollars. This includes adding funding for the city’s biggest green space, City Park. Developed in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, a national leader in parks and recreation advocacy, the plan brings major improvements to security, infrastructure, and maintenance of all our city’s parks and recreation centers.
The ballot proposition was brought to Orleans Parish voters on May 4, 2019 and was overwhelmingly approved by the community.
What was on the ballot on May 4, 2019?
On May 4, the voters of New Orleans voted yes on a ballot proposal for parks and recreation that will affect the quality of life for all our citizens. They voted on the renewal and re-allocation of the current 6.31 millages already dedicated to parks in the City. The re-allocation allows for a more equitable distribution of the taxpayer dollars ALREADY supporting parks and recreation in the City and includes City Park in that distribution for the first time in the Park’s history.
Which groups will benefit from this millage?
The New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC), the New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways, New Orleans City Park, and the Audubon Commission. The collaborative effort was developed in partnership with Trust for Public Land, a national leader in parks and recreation advocacy.
I’ve read this is not going to increase my taxes. How is that possible?
This millage is a renewal and re-allocation of the current 6.31 millages ALREADY allocated to park and recreation agencies. The proposal calls for redistributing the funds currently devoted to the Audubon Commission, New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, and the New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways. The proposal calls for half of the Audubon Commission’s current millage allocation to be redistributed to the other park agencies, including City Park. All the park agencies collaborated closely with the Cantrell Administration to develop a solution for a more equitable distribution of tax dollars WITHOUT asking the voters for an increase.
What is the rationale behind this proposal?
The rationale is to provide sustainable and more equitably distributed funding for maintenance, park safety, programming, and capital improvements. Our park system is at significant risk of deterioration unless we act now.
How much of the millage will the Audubon Commission receive?
The current estimate is that Audubon will receive approximately $6.591 million each of the 20 years beginning in 2021.
How will the Audubon Commission use millage funds?
The current millage can only be used at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Zoo. This new proposal will allow Audubon to spend money at its public parks as well, including Audubon Park and Riverview (“The Fly”), Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, and Audubon Wilderness Park.
Millage funds would support the following efforts:
- Trash pick-up, restroom and shelter cleaning, grass cutting, tree and garden care, and other daily maintenance activities in Audubon’s public parks
- Increased staffing for Audubon’s 24/7 security at uptown and downtown facilities as well as hiring professional security services or police details to assist with high-traffic events at Audubon Zoo
- Audubon Park Master Plan Projects, including:
- Development of a comprehensive stormwater management plan
- Drainage improvements
- Lagoon shoring and erosion control
- Riverview Promenade and erosion control along Mississippi River and shelters
- Program development and delivery, trail, boardwalk and building maintenance, interpretive exhibit development, invasive plant species management, and tree planting at Audubon Louisiana Nature Center as well as restoration of the Adventure Trail and the addition of infrastructure and amenities for tent-camping
- Improvements to Audubon Wilderness Park to provide an even safer, more enjoyable experience to park users, including:
- Loop Trail extensions
- Visitor Center interpretive graphics updates
- Restroom and shelter renovations
- Improvements to Woldenberg Riverfront Park to ensure guest safety, attract birds and pollinators, and enhance views of the Mississippi River
- Renovation of structures in historic areas of Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park so they can continue their education and conservation purposes
- Improvements to animal habitats and conservation exhibits in Audubon Zoo, including the African Savanna, and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, including the Amazon Rainforest and Penguins
- Capital improvements and major equipment replacement across Audubon facilities
- Increased conservation education programs across Audubon facilities
Where does the Audubon Commission’s current funding come from?
Approximately 85% of Audubon’s funding comes from earned revenue, such as admission to our paid facilities and purchases from our concessions and gift shops. The other 15% is non-operating revenue—approximately 8% from our current millage and 7% from our fundraising efforts through Audubon Nature Institute, the 501(c)3 non-profit that manages Audubon Commission properties, and Audubon Nature Institute Foundation, the 501(c)3 non-profit that manages Audubon’s endowment.