The St. George Fire Department wants to renew two property taxes that go toward its operations and building improvements in the southernmost part of East Baton Rouge Parish.
The department’s leaders are expected to ask the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council next week to place two property tax renewals on the ballot for the Nov. 8 election. At the same meeting, council members also are expected to consider whether it should place a new, dedicated tax for the city-parish’s Council on Aging on the same ballot.
St. George Fire Chief Gerard Tarleton is stressing that the fire taxes are only renewals and that people’s tax bills should not increase as a result of them.
“Given that these taxes are simply renewals, they keep us going,” Tarleton said. “I can’t certainly imagine why anyone would be upset.”
A homeowner with a $200,000 house that takes homestead exemption pays $200 a year in property taxes for the St. George Fire Department, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Assessor’s Office. People with $250,000 homes that take homestead exemption pay $280 a year for St. George fire taxes.
The two taxes up for renewal — at 6 mills and 1.5 mills each — make up nearly half of the 16-mill tax base in the department’s $18 million budget. In total, the department collects five different taxes and a $32 annual service fee per structure.
The 6-mill tax would span for 10 years. It generates $7.2 million that helps pay for the department’s general operations, insurance and more.
The 1.5-mill tax would only be in effect for five years. The $1.8 million that it brings in would go toward capital improvements, equipment purchases and debt service.
Last year, the St. George Fire Department initially struggled to put a tax increase on ballots. The department sought a tax hike and renewal wrapped into one tax for an election last May.
The Metro Council rejected sending it to voters the first time they were asked. Many council members said at the time that they could support a renewal, but not an increase. Tarleton broke the tax into two — a renewal and an increase to pay for building a new station and better water systems — and eventually won the favor of the Metro Council.
The taxes easily passed at the polls, causing residents with $250,000 homestead exempt homes to pay an extra $35 a year. Those with $200,000 houses saw their bills rise by $25 annually.
No bill increase is expected as a result of the renewal of the two taxes the department is looking for voters to reapprove.