The newest report, which is the third of three that have come out since December, estimates St. George would have a budget deficit of about $7.6 million.
Last week, St. George organizers released a report conducted by national CPA firm Carr, Riggs and Ingram that stated the new city of St. George would have a surplus of about $11 million annually and would not have to raise taxes.
Their report was in response to a December study by local CPA firm Faulk and Winkler, hired by Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which stated that St. George would have to raise property taxes by at least 20.5 mills to cover city operational costs and build schools to accommodate the number of students living in the area.
Immediately, St. George opponents took issue with the CRI report. They decried the fact that the St. George report did not mention whether taxes in the area would have to be raised to build new schools for a companion school system associated with the new city. And the mayor’s staff noted that the CRI report appeared to erroneously include tax dollars from other parts of the parish in St. George’s revenues that it would not have access to.
On Wednesday, Faulk and Winkler released a three page report that essentially backs up what the mayor’s office already stated. It says that the St. George-backed report overestimates its budget by $12.5 million.
“The issue with the Committee’s forecast is that the industrial tax payers were not removed from the tax collections base of the present unincorporated area,” the most recent Faulk and Winkler report states. “As this group is identifiable and will not be included in the proposed City, the related sales tax receipts were excluded from the sales tax base to forecast sales tax receipts for the proposed incorporation.”
The CRI report, from St. George organizers, also assumed that it would collect sales taxes from Towne Center.
St. George organizers’ latest budget project estimates annual city expenses of $54 million. The Faulk and Winkler report now estimates their revenue would be about $46.5 million — which would be a deficit of about $7.6 million.
There is one week left before the group is due to turn in at least 2,700 signatures from registered voters supporting the city to bring the incorporation issue to a vote.
A petition was turned in last October for St. George’s incorporation, the largest drive in state history, but it came up short in signatures. If the organizers cannot secure the shortfall by May 28, the petition will be voided.
The issue of whether St. George would have to raise taxes has been used ammunition by opponents of the movement. St. George leaders have maintained they’d run a more efficient government that wouldn’t require additional taxes to operate.