By Paul Murphy | WWL-TV | November 12, 2020

NEW ORLEANS — The Cantrell administration is asking all city departments to cut their budgets in the coming year.

That’s because the Coronavirus and efforts to control it have drastically reduced tax revenue in New Orleans.

Thursday, NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson presented his 2021 spending plan to the city council budget committee.

This year, his budget was about $175 million. Next year, the department is expected to get $164 million. A cut of about $11 million. Ferguson admits 2020 has been difficult.

“COVID, civil unrest, social injustice, many things that needed to be addressed as well as hurricanes and now even furloughs,” Ferguson told the committee.

Furloughs are expected to continue.

To cut costs, police officers will have to take 26 unpaid days off next year.

The NOPD also plans to cut some employees’ pay by 10%, put off buying some new equipment and leave many open positions unfilled. The cuts come at a time when homicides are on pace to nearly double this year compared to 2019.

Other crimes of violence are on the rise.

Mid-City resident Mark Mascar is worried after a woman was carjacked not far from his house.

“Mid-City is a great place,” Mascar said. “I couldn’t think of anywhere better to live, it’s just a shame, it’s a shame for such a great neighborhood and community to be dealing with this sort of stuff now.”

With cuts looming, attrition is outpacing recruitment at the NOPD. Superintendent Ferguson said just last week, five officers left the department.

Three of them transferred to other agencies in the area.

“We do believe the furloughs may have played a part in that,” Ferguson said. “During our exit interviews we were able to determine that.”

Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche talked about the NOPD manpower woes.  

“Calls for service remain high about 33,000 calls per month from people that want to see the police arrive,” Goyeneche said. “What we’re seeing is the police can’t get to all of those calls.” 

Next year’s budget would allow the NOPD to recruit up to 90 new officers.

This year, the department was budgeted for up to120 recruits.

The city council must approve a new city budget by December 1.