BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The fight to increase a tax for those living in the St. George Fire District will get a second round before the EBR Metro Council. Last week council members rejected a call for a May election that would have asked voters to increase a 1.25 mills to 3.25 for 20 years. Now, the fire district commissioners are scrambling to revise that proposal.
"We looked at the issue, pulled out some of the projects and we're proposing two resolutions actually that split a 2 mill proposition and a mill and a quarter for ten years," said Fire Chief Jerry Tarleton.
Taking a cue from council members, the commissioners agreed to reduce the length of the tax to 10 years, and split the tax into two different proposals. One proposal asks for a simple renewal. The other proposal asks for a 2.00 mill increase. The fire district's current tax expires at the end of the year.
"The council could just approve the calling of an election for one of them, in which case only one of them will be on the ballot," said the commissioner's attorney Henry Olinde.
According to Tarleton, the tax increases were meant to fund two new fire stations as well as $3 million in water system improvements like adding fire hydrants to several neighborhoods. The new proposal cuts that funding in half, reducing the number of projects the district can take on.
Commissioners are hoping that's enough to persuade the council to allow a May election. Councilman John Delgado voted against the original proposal, but he said he would support a renewal because it maintains the status quo. However, Delgado says he will not send a tax increase to voters in May.
"I don't see any reason to raise taxes. Their area that they're primarily focusing on covering has diminished significantly," said Delgado.
According to Delgado, recent annexing of property into Baton Rouge City Limits has reduced the jurisdiction of the St. George Fire Department. However, Olinde disagrees. According to the commissioner's attorney, property under the St. George Fire District is still the responsibility of the St. George Fire Department regardless of annexes.
Olinde also says that the taxes would also bring money into the general fund, allowing the Fire Department to make more hires.