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The owners of a United Plaza office building are requesting to be annexed back into the city of Baton Rouge, the first business to ask to leave the newly created city of St. George.

Four United Plaza, a 75,000-square-foot office building at 8555 United Plaza Boulevard, off Essen Lane, filed the annexation request Monday afternoon, said Charles Landry, a Baton Rouge real estate attorney.

In an unofficial vote of 17,421 to 14,867, St. George won the long battle to incorporate 86,000 residents into a new city.

A number of questions have come up, including who will be mayor? What services will still be provided by East Baton Rouge Parish? Is the incorporation effort completely finished?

Read below to answer these questions and more regarding the City of St. George.

Who is included in this new city?

The City of St. George will be approximately 60 square miles in area and have a population of 86,316 residents.

Will my address change?

“The post office does not deliver mail based on the city but rather delivers based on ZIP code,” says St. George spokesman Drew Murrell.

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Drew Murrell, spokesman for the St. George incorporation movement, talks about what's next at a press conference Monday Oct. 14, 2019, in St. George, La.

“Before we became St. George, we tested that theory by mailing several letters to various cities while using St. George ZIP codes and every one was delivered correctly to the St. George address,” he said.

However, it is unclear if residents will need to change their legal address and/or obtain new IDs.

How will St. George get a new mayor and city council?

The governor will select an interim mayor for the City of St. George along with five council members. Following the first term, St. George citizens will vote for the new mayor and city council. However, the governor cannot declare the interim mayor or city council until 30 days after the election, when the Secretary of State verifies the election results.

With Gov. John Bel Edwards headed into a runoff for his re-election bid, appointing a mayor and five councilmen for St. George likely will not be a top priority for Edwards after the election results are certified.

When does the incorporation of the City of St. George officially go into effect?

Proponents have set Jan. 1, 2020 as their target date to have the new city’s operations confirmed and ready. However, the city-parish could face legal roadblocks before this date, which could delay the city even further.

What legal roadblocks?

According to Louisiana Revised Statute 33:4, any person living within the proposed incorporation area, or someone who owns lands within the proposed St. George boundaries, can legally contest the incorporation. Any municipality which "might be adversely affected" or an elected official from the governing authority of that municipality can also contest the incorporation.

A district court judge would have to determine whether "incorporation is reasonable" and if the proposed municipality could provide "public services within a reasonable period of time."

"In determining whether the incorporation is reasonable, the court shall consider the possible adverse effects the incorporation may have on other municipalities in the vicinity," the law states.

One cause for legal action may be who was included and excluded from the election. Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and other opponents have said the election was unfair because the decision affects everyone in the parish financially and socially– not just those within St. George.

Will there really be no new taxes?

According to St. George spokesmen, the new city will not create any additional taxes for residents.

Broome's administration in May released a study claiming the city-parish would lose $48.3 million annually if the St. George incorporation happened, and that government agencies would need to make across-the-board cuts of at least 18%.

They now must also pay an additional $5.3 million to $7.5 million annually after an amendment was made to the city-parish’s retirement ordinance.


UTILITIES AND PUBLIC SERVICES

What will St. George do for fire protection?

The City of St. George website says the following:

"Fire protection will be provided by the St. George Fire Department, which is already funded by 14 mills on its residents’ property tax bill, and by the East Side Fire Department, which already collects 22.5 mills from its citizens."

What police protection will be offered?

A police chief has yet to be decided. It is also not written in state law how police chiefs are appointed in newly incorporated municipalities.

Apart from the police chief, St. George will continue to use the same police services as before.

“Police protection will be provided by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, which is also already funded by property taxes that residents of the new city already pay” said the City of St. George.

St. George proponents also plan to work with Sheriff Sid Gautreaux to increase police protection in the St. George area, earmarking $4 million in revenue toward the goal.

Will my utility costs or providers change?

Darryl Gissel, the city-parish's chief administrative officer, expects little change for the residents of the new city because water and electrical service will still be provided by Baton Rouge Water Co. and Entergy, respectively.

There also won't be much of a change in costs associated with wastewater treatment for the residents.

St. George proponents have said in public statements that they plan to handle drainage maintenance independently, so it is unknown how much that will cost residents.

This movement started long ago to create better schools. What will the new school system look like?

A new St. George school district faces many hurdles before it can be cleared, though it would have profound effects on the parish as a whole. According to school system estimates, up to 4,000 children would have to change schools as a result.

To create its own school district, a new City of St. George would have do the following:

• Convince the legislature to call a statewide election to amend Louisiana’s Constitution – which is required to make St. George eligible to receive education funding from the state, allow it to receive free school books and other instructional materials and give it authority to levy local property taxes. The first chance to call such a referendum would be the 2020 regular session, which begins March 9, and it requires approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate to head to the voters. If approved, the election call is not subject to veto by the governor.

• Make the legislative changes necessary to establish, among other things, the territory a St. George school district would take from the East Baton Rouge Parish school district. The St. George school boundaries need not match those of the new City of St. George. They don’t in Baker, Central and Zachary. In Zachary’s case, the district is much larger than the city. The legal changes would require a simple majority of the state House and Senate, but are subject to possible veto by the governor.

• Persuade the governor to sign or not stand in the way of the legislative changes needed to create a St. George school district. A veto would throw a St. George school district in doubt and overriding one is rare, happening only twice in the last century.

• Win a majority of votes across the state and in East Baton Rouge Parish to enact the constitutional amendment. Such amendments were approved in 1995, 1999 and 2006 to create school districts in Baker, Zachary and Central. The earliest a St. George school statewide election could occur is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. The earliest that a new school district could start operation is July 1, 2021.

Check out our other rundown of St. George, along with Our Views on St. George below:

This report was compiled using articles written by Terry Jones, Blake Paterson and Charles Lussier, along with resources provided by stgeorgelouisiana.com.

Email Lara Nicholson at LNicholson@theadvocate.com.