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A rider prepares to load his bicycle onto the front of a Capital Area Transportation System (CATS) bus at the station at Florida Boulevard and 22nd Street in this file photo.

The daily bus routes and services the city-parish's bus system now offers in parts of southeastern East Baton Rouge Parish won't be affected if a new city of St. George is formed, officials say.

And organizers behind the incorporation effort have no desire to implement their own bus lines if the city becomes a reality. 

"The bus system is working well for East Baton Rouge Parish (and) we have no need for one," said Drew Murrell, a spokesman for the St. George campaign.

Voters in certain unincorporated areas of southeastern East Baton Rouge Parish will vote Oct. 12 on whether to create a new city. Officials with the Capital Area Transit System have said the new city won't adversely impact bus service, which is a departure from the narrative most city-parish agencies have expressed about the controversial city ahead of the election.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and those who oppose the creation of a new city say St. George would yank around $50 million annually from city-parish coffers and could equate in almost 20% across-the-board cuts in the operating budgets of many government agencies. 

St. George would be the third city in the parish opting out of bus service. 

CATS spokeswoman Amie McNaylor said Central hasn't had bus service for the past 13 years. Zachary used to have it, but it was discontinued in 2013 with the rejection of a property tax proposal to support service in the area.   

Baker is the only other city, besides Baton Rouge, that has dedicated bus routes with CATS. 

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Editor's note: One in an occasional series of stories on the possible creation of a new city of St. George in the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish.

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Like Baton Rouge, Baker levies a voter-approved 10.6-mill property tax that generates a lion's share of the revenue in CATS' more than $20 million annual budget. 

Property owners in the unincorporated parts of the parish are excluded from paying CATS' dedicated property tax, but there are six bus routes that serve the periphery of St. George's proposed boundaries.  

Those routes are:

  • No. 12 — Government Street/Jefferson Highway
  • No. 17 — Perkins Road/Mall of Louisiana
  • No. 47 — Highland Road 
  • No. 57 — Sherwood Forest
  • No. 58 — Coursey Boulevard/O'Neal Lane
  • No. 60 — Medical Corridor 

"I would say it's early to speculate particulars, but there could be some sort of agreement between that city and CATS," McNaylor said. "If the city of St. George is incorporated as proposed, however, we don't anticipate it impacting our stops on these six routes."

St. George's creation also wouldn't impact the budget or operation of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, which is financed by fees from air carriers and airport-related services. 

And when it comes to road improvements within the proposed city, officials say any pending projects connected to the parishwide, voter-approved half-cents sales taxes, like MovEBR and the Green Light Plan, would proceed without changes on the thoroughfares and streets owned by the state and/or city-parish.

"For road improvements outside of these voter-approved projects, funding would need to come from the 2% sales tax generated in that geographical area," said Angie Savoy, budget manager with the city-parish's Finance Department. 

The city-parish doesn't know yet how many streets would fall under the umbrella of the new municipality to maintain. 

"This is a transition issue which would be negotiated in the event of a successful incorporation election," said Mark Armstrong, the spokesman for the mayor-president. 

Murrell said organizers have set aside about $2.2 million in their projected $58 million budget to handle road maintenance. Organizers have touted they'll have a more than $24 million surplus their first year, according to the Committee of St. George's proposed budget. 

Aspects of that budget has been heavily criticized by the opposition who said previously St. George proponents are overestimating revenues and underestimating expenses. 

Murrell said officials would likely look to the private sector to handle road maintenance when it's required.

"Roadways are kind of a misnomer," he said. "Most of these roadways are owned by state. The rest owned by parish. Only very few will be transferred to local municipal control."

"There won't be a lot to maintain since most are maintained by the parish with parishwide taxes," he added.      

Email Terry Jones at tjones@theadvocate.com