Mayor calling for unity ahead of St. George vote; supporters of incorporation say it’s time for change

Heavy hitters weigh in on the proposed city of St. George as new anti-incorporation ad airs

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An ad sponsored by the No City of St. George PAC might be a last-ditch effort to sway voters, but it’s an effort some homeowners in the proposed city limits can stand behind.

“I think we’re taking opportunities away to move this city forward,” Eileen Russo said.

Russo lives within the boundaries of what could be the new City of St. George.

Supporters of St. George incorporation say they can avoid financial ruin and not raise taxes, but the question is how? It’s still an unanswered question for Russo.

“Where are they going to generate that money from when so many of the companies have pulled out?" Russo asked.

Russo is referring to possible major moneymakers like Celtic Studios, the Mall of Louisiana, and L’Auberge Casino being annexed, diminishing the tax base for the proposed city.

Andrew Murrell is part of the group leading the charge to incorporate. He says a large portion of the city’s money will come from sales tax and gross business taxes, which is detailed in its financial plan.

Andrew Murrell, spokesperson for the City of St. George, says incorporation will thrive, despite what opposition says.
Andrew Murrell, spokesperson for the City of St. George, says incorporation will thrive, despite what opposition says. (Source: WAFB)

“That’s sales tax, occupational license fees, and franchise fees make up our funding source, but that’s just the general fund revenue. We’re still paying parish property taxes,” said Murrell, a spokesperson for the City of St. George.

Naysayers think they’ll need more to survive.

“I think the costs are going to be much higher than they anticipated,” Russo said. “They’ve had two LSU economists look at that.”

Splitting up the parish doesn’t solve the long list of issues, including drainage. During a press conference Thursday, Oct. 3, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome brought extra support to help spread the message of unity.

Skip Bertman and Roger Cador stand with Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome during a press conference Thursday morning where they encouraged citizens to vote against St. George incorporation.
Skip Bertman and Roger Cador stand with Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome during a press conference Thursday morning where they encouraged citizens to vote against St. George incorporation. (Source: WAFB)
Skip Bertman and Roger Cador during a press conference Thursday morning. Bertman and Cador are not in support of the proposed St. George incorporation.
Skip Bertman and Roger Cador during a press conference Thursday morning. Bertman and Cador are not in support of the proposed St. George incorporation. (Source: WAFB)

Skip Bertman and Roger Cador are standing with the mayor.

“One community, unity itself and saying as one is best for us,” Bertman said.

Neither of these powerhouse sports moguls live in the proposed city limits, however, Mayor Broome says that doesn’t matter because they helped build Baton Rouge and they’re helping to spread a positive message.

“When we work together on our shared goals and our shared visions, we’re stronger as a community,” the mayor said. “There is no perfect city in the United States of America. Every city has its challenges. But guess what? They work towards resolving those challenges.”

Murrell says they have a simple solution while improving the cityscape: smart spending.

“By running a better, more efficient form of government with the public, private partnerships, we’re going to have a surplus of revenue every single year. I know because that’s what the City of Central is doing.”

The City of St. George is estimated to have approximately 86,000 residents. Russo says she doesn’t like how the proposed city limits were redistricted to get the proposal on the ballot.

“I don’t like excluding people,” she said.

Murrell says if people didn’t want to be part of the new city, they cut them out.

“What would be worse? Including people who do not want to be included in the City of St. George or not including them?” he asked.

Murrell says after they looked at the first petition effort, they could see where the support came from. He says they needed 25% of registered voters in the proposed area to support the proposition.

“If we looked back and didn’t see sufficient support in those areas, then yeah, we cut it out because it wasn’t going to help get on the ballot. That was the goal. People that want to incorporate, we’re going to include those people," he said.

The driving force behind the incorporation process began when legislators told St. George leaders they had to form a city before they could get a school district. Murrell says realistically, a school district will be open and underway in three to five years. After incorporation, a two-thirds vote is required by the House and Senate.

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