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Volunteer Jim Talbot holds a sign for passing motorists at a public signing event for the petition to create the city of St. George on Saturday, May 5, 2018 in front of Woodlawn Baptist Church on Jones Creek Road.

The City-Parish said Wednesday it would lose $48.3 million annually if residents in the southeastern part of East Baton Rouge Parish form a separate city of St. George and that the government agencies it operates would need to cut at least 18 percent from their budgets to make ends meet.

A study prepared by Richard CPAs at the request of the City-Parish’s Finance Department was released the day before a legislative committee is to take up a bill that would let all parish residents weigh in on whether St. George can carve out a new city of about 80,000 residents.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said in a statement that if East Baton Rouge moved to protect police and fire departments, some agencies could see their funding cut 45 percent. A spokesman for St. George accused the mayor of “fearmongering.”

The area that encompasses St. George is currently governed by the East Baton Rouge City-Parish government. Baker, Central and Zachary are governed separately. Voters in the southeastern portion of the parish will vote Oct. 12 on whether to create St. George.

Broome is scheduled to testify Thursday on behalf of a bill by state Sen. Yvonne Colomb that would let all registered voters in East Baton Rouge Parish consider St. George’s creation.

The mayor says all of the parish’s 441,000 residents would be affected by St. George’s departure, not just those in the proposed new city.

"This analysis shows the devastating effect an incorporation would have on the remaining residents of the city-parish who, currently, are not allowed to vote on the issue," Broome said. "Given that budgeted amounts for debt service and constitutional mandates cannot be reduced, these numbers reveal that every city-parish department and agency would need to be cut by a minimum of 18 percent across the board."

Broome said deep cuts would be necessary parishwide if East Baton Rouge wanted to protect police and firefighter funding.

"Residents in and outside of the proposed city need to understand the grave reality of the situation and the impact this will have on services previously provided by the city-parish,” she said.

Drew Murrell, an attorney and spokesman for the organizers behind the St. George campaign, said Broome needed to “get her stories straight,” referencing comments Broome made in the media recently regarding the efficiency study her office is using to examine day-to-day operations within city-parish government.

“After acknowledging as much as $7 million was found in potential savings that she can contemplate pay increases for employees, now the sky is falling out of City Hall?” he said.

The accountants at Richard CPAs based their analysis on 2018 budget data provided by the City-Parish.

The $48.3 million revenue loss projected is about 16 percent of the city-parish’s general fund, which netted $311 million in total revenue in the 2018 fiscal year.

The report also calls attention to a clause in the petition that prompted the upcoming election which outlines certain services St. George may provide if there are enough funds available in the proposed city’s $58.4 million budget. Those services include planning and zoning, building inspections, traffic signs and signals, maintenance and improvements of roads and streets, rights of way and drainage and regulation of alcoholic beverages and animal control, according to the report.

“In other words, there is no guarantee to the residents of the proposed St. George area that these services will be provided at all,” Broome said. “This means that there will be a 100 percent cut to those services if the government of St. George decides not to provide them or fails to collect enough tax money to afford them.”

Broome said St. George organizers have steered away from discussing the reality of tax increases in the proposed city and the “devastating” impact of tax cuts on the remainder of the parish.

“I will continue to provide factual data and fight for what I know is best for our community as a whole,” she said. “Everything must be examined in light of the whole and without showing favoritism toward one segment of the parish—especially when it involves doing damage to another segment of the parish.”

The mayor has required all departments and agencies to submit a continuation budget request for the 2020 operating year as well as a budget at 80 percent of current funding levels in anticipation of the possible incorporation, which hits the ballot Oct. 12.

Departments and agencies will be required to outline service impacts associated with the reduced funding level, Broome said.

In response, Murrell questioned the study’s findings by saying, at first glance, it appears to be a regurgitation of a previous study released last year by two LSU professors who claimed St. George organizers were overestimating revenues and underestimating expenses in their proposed budget.

In theory, if the creation of St. George would snatch away $48.3 million out of city-parish coffers, then it would reduce expenditures by the same amount as well, Murrell asserted.

St. George organizers have said previously they intend to contract out many of the proposed city’s services, which will help reduce their expenditures and lead to annual surpluses the way it has for the cities they modeled their budget after.

“I think this is Broome trying to intimidate voters by threatening to cut off services, which we know she can’t do,” he said. “We will never stop paying for parishwide services because we become a city and saying anything like that is fearmongering.”

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.