Better Together sent a brochure last week to most of the registered voters who signed the St. George petition with a fallacious claim that their taxes will be raised when incorporation occurs. The St. George Committee projects a budget surplus.
However, there is a false narrative that the current BR City-Parish government operates efficiently on behalf of its residents. Since the 2004 election of Mayor Kip Holden, the BR City-Parish government has been on an unprecedented spending binge in comparison to all other Louisiana metropolitan areas.
The BR City-Parish operating budget has increased from $542 million a year (2004) to $830 million a year (2015) — a gigantic 54 percent increase. Over this 11-year period, the parish population has increased a paltry 8 percent, most of that growth occurring in Central and Zachary. On average, the BR City-Parish government has increased spending by $71,800 every day for the last 4,000+ days (11 years).
Since the recession of 2008-2009, the BR City-Parish operating budget has increased more than the combined total increases of all other Louisiana metropolitan cities (Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Shreveport and New Orleans). This analysis excludes one-time federal grants to New Orleans. The BR City-Parish budget increases since 2009 could fund the entire 2015 Lake Charles annual operating budget.
Since 2010, communities within the East Baton Rouge Parish School System with below average public school rankings are laggards in population growth: BR, 0.0 percent; Baker, -0.5 percent; EBR Parish, 1.1 percent, due to growth in Central and Zachary. The EBRPSS student enrollment has fallen every year for the past 10 years, with experts predicting a further 5 percent decline in the next 5 years.
In stark contrast, surrounding BR area communities with school districts ranking in the top 10 have realized substantially higher growth rates: Zachary, 6.4 percent; Central, 3.3 percent; Ascension, 6.7 percent; and Livingston, 4.7 percent.
East Baton Rouge Parish residents should expect to open their wallets for major tax increases to sustain the $71,800 a day pay raise the BR-City Parish gives itself.
Mayor Kip Holden and Better Together have avoided an honest dialogue that taxes increase must soon be proposed to sustain their spending. I encourage The Advocate and your readers to fact check this opinion letter.
Better Together is doing everything it can to suppress a vote on the proposed city of St. George. Apparently, this organization does not trust the decisions of an informed electorate.