BRADENTON, Fla. - New Orleans saw a 9.6% increase in sales tax revenues in 2013 thanks largely to growth in population and tourism, and efforts to attract new business, city officials said.

In total, unaudited revenues at the December 31 fiscal year-end close are anticipated to be nearly $20 million more than projected by the Revenue Estimating Conference, which will help wipe a the negative fund balance carried since 2009, according to Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.

In the quarterly Revenue Estimating Conference May 21, committee members cited positive trends in population and visitor growth, and the location of nationally recognized retailers and developers as sources of the revenue growth.

The city also employed a simple strategy to cut costs, reorganize government, and "invest the savings in what matters most," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

"The last years gave us an opportunity to reclaim sales tax dollars that for years have left Orleans Parish," he said.

Last summer, the New Orleans Business Alliance, the city and its Economic Development Administration launched "ProsperityNOLA," a five-year strategic plan to drive economic growth in targeted industry sectors.

The plan helped attract major retailers such as Mid-City Market, Costco, clothier H&M, Tiffany & Co., CVS, Big Lots, Whole Foods, and Circle Food Store.

"Since day one, our goal has been to identify the ways to increase the city's tax revenue," Kopplin said. "Over the past four years, in addition to sustained retail and development growth, we have improved the city's ability to collect owed taxes with increased enforcement."

The city's financial position continues to be weak part because of the lingering effects of hurricanes and the Great Recession, according to analysts.

Operations are also pressured by rising health care, worker's compensation, and pension costs as well as additional costs for a new parish prison and police consent decree reforms, they said.

New Orleans had $470.07 million of outstanding general obligation bonds at the end of fiscal 2012, the latest available. The bonds are rated A-minus by Fitch Ratings, A3 by Moody's Investors Service, and BBB-plus by Standard & Poor's.

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