Proposal to incorporate City of St. George moves forward
EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The petition to incorporate the proposed City of St. George is moving forward.
Steve Raborn, registrar of voters for East Baton Rouge Parish, has certified that 25 percent or more of electorate living in the St. George area have signed the petition to incorporate the proposed city.
The petition was first filed Oct. 15, 2018. Click here for more.
Because 25 percent or more people have signed, Raborn has forwarded the proposal to Governor John Bel Edwards, who will determine if the petition complies with various state laws.
Now that they have gotten the needed signatures, backers of the proposed city of St. George are teeming with excitement over an all but certain vote.
“We got 14,585 signatures in less than 7 month’s time. That is an amazing feat and it’s the largest incorporation effort in state history,” said St. George spokesman, Andrew Murrell.
Murrell claims the support has been overwhelming and he has no doubt that support will translate directly to the ballot. “I’ve never discussed what happens if we fail at the ballot and at this point I don’t see a point in doing it because we’re not.”
Monday afternoon East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome released the following statement:
"Today we learned that the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters verified the signatures needed to put the proposed City of St. George measure on the ballot. This proposition significantly affects every resident of East Baton Rouge Parish. If and when an election is scheduled, it is my hope that the election date is one in which high voter turnout is anticipated.
I encourage not only those who reside inside the proposed city’s boundaries, but all residents of the parish, to closely evaluate the proposal prepared by St. George organizers as well as the independent analyses that outline the proposed city’s impact on the City-Parish and the services it claims it will provide.
It is now incumbent upon St. George organizers to honestly and truthfully address the many questions that have been raised by citizens over the course of the past year. Citizens across the parish deserve to have a clear understanding of how this proposed city would impact their personal finances. Economists who have studied the proposal stated that St. George would operate in a deficit and would have no choice but to raise taxes to provide adequate services to its residents.
I am committed to keeping Baton Rouge together and firmly believe we are stronger as a whole. Recent history demonstrates that when we unite around common goals we are able to find workable solutions that benefit every resident of this parish."
The battle over the potential city has raged on for months since reigniting last year after the effort fell just short of heading to voters back in 2015. Supporters say it is past time they break away from a city they believe over taxes and under delivers. “We don’t have a funding problem, we have a spending problem and that’s why St. George is going to be different and better,” said Murrell.
Opponents though, argue the budget numbers the group released last year sound too good to be true and that St. George will only lead to higher taxes for those on both sides of the planned city’s boundaries. The proposed city’s budget claims it will generate more than $45 million annually and boasts a budget surplus of about $20 million.
“It’s inevitable. Taxes will be increased parish-wide so it’s important to figure out how much they’re going to be increased and when,” said M.E. Cormier.
Murrell slammed those criticisms, saying attacks against the proposed city’s budget are based on unsubstantiated numbers from a study he calls questionable.
“The city of Baton Rouge has put 20 tax initiatives on the last 18 ballots. The city of Baton Rouge is the one raising your taxes. St. George won’t have to do that,” Murrell added.
The effort is now closer than it has ever been to success but critics are urging residents to find out more information before they head to cast their vote.
“St. George organizers have very big questions that deserve very real answers,” said Cormier.
One question the movement has yet to answer is specifics on a plan for schools. Murrell tells WAFB’s Scottie Hunter the plan is still in the works even as organizers continue to push for voter support.
“At some point yes we’ll talk about the school system but we currently have a school system ranked 58th in a state ranked dead last in education. Anything we do has got to be better than that,” said Murrell.
- City of St. George supporters launch new petition effort; mayor expresses strong opposition
- Proposed city of St. George releases budget projections; says no tax increase needed
- Residents clash over controversial St. George proposal
The mayor’s office says only those living within the proposed limits of St. George would be allowed to vote on the proposal, unless the city-parish files a lawsuit arguing all residents should be allowed to vote. At this time, no such lawsuit has been filed.
According to Louisiana state law (LA Revised Statute 33:3), the governor must review the request for a special election to vote on the St. George proposal and could potentially ask the Attorney General’s Office to review the case to make sure everything is up to snuff. If Edwards schedules the election before Mar. 11, it will be held during the next statewide election on May 4, but if the governor calls for the election after Mar. 11 but before July 9, the special election will be held Oct. 12.
In this case, this is all somewhat of a formality and ultimately, Edwards will have little choice but to schedule the election.
Click here for an interactive map of the proposed City of St. George.
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