Why St. George?
A recent mailer in opposition to the City of St. George from "Put Louisiana First" posed the following questions to the electorate of the proposed city. Here are the answers to their questions:
Question: If St. George becomes a city, do I stop paying Parish-wide taxes like BREC, the Library tax, and the Council on Aging tax?
Answer: No, these are parish wide taxes. Every resident of East Baton Rouge parish must pay these taxes, regardless of which city or unincorporated area they live in. The leaders of the effort to create the proposed city of St. George have NEVER said that residents of the new city would stop paying parish wide taxes. The reality is that the people opposed to the proposed City of St. George like to scare and mislead people and suggest that if the St. George incorporation vote is successful, that the city will be leaving the parish.
Question: How long will it be before we have our own school district?
Answer: The Southeast Baton Rouge Community School district already exists. It was enacted into law (click here & here) during the 2013 legislative session by the Louisiana legislature and the Governor. Upon incorporation of the City of St. George, this law will serve as the framework of a public school district for the City of St. George. The statute will be amended to change the name and boundary to be more aligned with the City of St. George. This process will involve legislative and electoral activities and will take time to complete - more than likely several years.
Question: Why were the boundaries redrawn the way they were?
Answer: The boundaries were redrawn for several reasons. In the first petition drive, we tried to include as much of the unincorporated part of the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge parish as possible. However, after a thorough analysis of the first petition drive was completed, it became obvious that there were areas both large and small where support for the proposed city was lacking compared to other areas. As such, we respected and honored their wishes and did not include them in the new boundary. Additionally, during the first petition drive the city of Baton Rouge approached certain businesses (Mall of Louisiana, Celtic Studios, L'Auberge Casino, etc) and coaxed them into letting Baton Rouge annex them.
Question: Will adding additional levels of government & taxes improve efficiency?
Answer: Yes, we believe that a smaller, locally accountable government that allows us to control our tax dollars will result in improved efficiency and exhibit fiscal responsibility. Don't believe us? Look at the City of Central. They operate their city on the same 2% sales tax revenue model we intend to operate the City of St. George. They have run an annual surplus each year and as of 2019 they have in excess of $41 million in reserve.
Question: Can a new school district be created without raising taxes?
Answer: Yes, a new school district can be FUNDED without raising taxes. The opposition frequently likes to confuse and scare people by implying that the proposed budget for the City of St. George does not include any money for a school system. The truth of the matter is that public school systems and city government are funded by two completely different sets of taxes. School systems are funded by these three different sources:
Dedicated millage on your property tax bill.
A SEPARATE portion sales tax (also 2%) which is dedicated to public schools. This is not the same 2% of the total sales tax which will be used to fund the City of St. George.
The Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) contribution from the State of Louisiana.
None of these sources listed above would fund the City of St. George.
Assuming the future St. George Community School district will have the same boundaries as the City of St. George, the EBR Parish Finance Department estimated revenues to be $50.4 million (2 cents sales tax), plus $39.4 million (property taxes), plus $12.2 million (state funded MFP funds) totaling 101.9 million for 5,636 students. See this article here in The Advocate for additional information.
Question: How much will it really cost to run a full fledged police department in our area?
Answer: There is no plan to create a full-fledged police department for the City of St. George. Why not? Because the residents of the proposed City of St. George currently enjoy law enforcement from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, and they pay for this protection with dedicated millages on their property taxes. This protection is not derived from the planned city budget, thought we plan to provide and additional $4 million in funds to the Sheriff to augment his services for St. George. There is no need to duplicate this service. Sheriff Sid Gautreaux released a statement (see it here) stating that his office will continue provide our current level of law enforcement services even after the City of St. George incorporates.
Question: Why does simply creating a budget make it realistic, viable, and achievable?
Answer: A budget by itself simply shows that the city is financially viable. For realism and achievability, we again refer you to the City of Central and the very real success story that they represent both with their city and their school system. If they can do it, we can do it too!
Question: Why do St. George organizers state they "May" provide maintenance and drainage improvements?
Answer: Our attorneys advised us to say this because it gives us the flexibility to say ‘Hey, what’s best for us?’ If the city-parish has a wonderful contract for trash collection that gets us pick up service two days a week, recycling, and it’s cheaper than what we can get on our own, let’s do that. And if it’s cheaper to run trash collection, or any other municipal service ourselves through a private service, we’re going to do that.
Question: Who are the organizers? What do they stand to gain? What will it cost you?
Answer: Norman Browning and Chris Rials - They are listed on the petition to the Governor for the creation of the City of St. George that over 14,500 registered voters signed in 2018. What do they stand to gain? The same things that each resident of St. George will gain: Better Government and Local Control of our tax dollars and a better opportunity to fund the afore mentioned Southeast Baton Rouge Community School district. After all, this is what our legislators told us we needed to do back in 2013