St. George critics call proposed budget 'too good to be true'; organizers disagree

Proposed St. George budget (Source: WAFB)
Proposed St. George budget (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The budget released online by backers of a plan to create the City of St. George has gotten folks fired up and has renewed many of the same burning questions from 2015. How much will this cost and who exactly is going to pay for it?

Andrew Murrell, part of the proposed city's legal team, says the budget speaks for itself and that most of the city's money would come from existing taxes. "It's based on sales tax revenue, occupancy taxes, and tax revenue that's already being generated that would be St. George's," said Murrell.

Murrell says everything else would come from bids. He believes that could make the city a reality without raising taxes. Under the proposed budget, St. George supporters expect to bring in about $58.4 million in the first year. With only about $33.9 million in projected expenses, they plan to have a roughly $24.4 million surplus.

"We don't need a billion dollar budget to run a world class city," said Murrell. "Instead, we're bidding out and having competitive bidding, which allows us to keep prices lower."

M.E. Cormier, with the group Better Together, was a vocal opponent of the plan two years ago and says she helped defeat the idea by even vetting the signatures on the petition. "It's ridiculous," said Cormier. "It's not based in reality."

This time around, Cormier says her first problem is with the new areas highlighted as part of the plan. She believes the spots were not chosen by accident. "I am concerned about the implications of what the gerrymandering means and who lives in the areas that they've cut out this time," she added.

When it comes to the finances, Cormier calls the new plan a joke and says the bottom line is that a new city equals new taxes. "Without a shadow of a doubt, the taxes will be raised on people in the St. George area and the Baton Rouge area," said Cormier. "Central, Baker, and Zachary have all had their taxes raised both to cover the cost of the city and to cover the cost of the school district."

Better schools was what the St. George push was said to be about from the beginning, but Cormier finds that hard to believe when a budget or plan for the new school district has yet to be seen. "They've never addressed education in their plans for a school system or their budget for a school system, either three years ago or this week," said Cormier.

WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked if the plan is not about education, what does Cormier believes it's about instead. "I really don't know what it's about," said Cormier. "It's really confusing what their motives are."

9News asked when the public can expect those plans and right now, the answer is soon.

"I can tell you it's coming," said Murrell. "Right now, we've started talking about the budget and now we've shown that and so the next phase, we'll be talking about our school system."

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