By RYAN BROUSSARD
Advocate staff writer
October 19, 2012
The St. George Fire Protection District on Nov. 6 will ask voters to renew a property tax.
St. George fire officials say they expect the 4-mill tax, which would be extended for 10 years, to generate about $4 million the first year. If property values increase or if there is any new property development in the area, it would generate additional revenue in subsequent years.
“It is the meat and potatoes of our budget,” St. George Fire Chief Gerard Tarleton said.
The money generated by the millage accounts for about a quarter of St. George’s annual operating budget and helps pay for day-to-day operations and the department’s water usage in the field.
“It’s not new money; it’s a renewal of one of the propositions that created the district,” said Eldon Ledoux, spokesman for the St. George Fire Department. “It’s one of the cornerstones of our district.”
The St. George District is an 83-square-mile stretch of East Baton Rouge Parish south of the Baton Rouge city limits to the parish’s southern border and along the West Baton Rouge Parish line to the west and the Livingston Parish line to the east. It houses eight fire stations with more than 170 employees.
“We do not get any funding from the city of Baton Rouge or East Baton Rouge Parish, nor the state of Louisiana, nor the federal government. We are totally supported by the citizens,” Ledoux added.
A mutual aid agreement with the Baton Rouge Fire Department ensures St. George’s resources will be dispatched to emergencies in the Baton Rouge Fire District and vice versa. The St. George Fire District is home to major Baton Rouge landmarks, including the Mall of Louisiana, the State Archives Building and Baton Rouge General Hospital. The department is the first responder to emergencies at the mall.
“It’s beneficial to the citizens of the city and the citizens of St. George because the lines on the map don’t determine the level of protection,” Ledoux said, adding that only registered voters in the St. George district can vote on the proposition.
The tax is subject to the Louisiana Homestead Exemption Act, which covers $75,000 of a property’s taxable value. A $200,000 house with the homestead exemption would have a taxable value of $125,000. Of that value, a 4-mill property tax would cost the owner $50 a year. Without the homestead exemption, the cost would be $80. In essence, the tax would increase by $10 for every $25,000 in assessed property value.
The tax in 2011 generated $4,036,632, which is being used in this year’s operating budget.
Tarleton said the property value of the entire district increased 0.38 percent in this year’s reassessment by the parish Assessor’s office. The district’s value increased by 1.74 percent in 2011 and 0.4 percent in 2010, he said.
Early voting for the election is Tuesday through Oct. 30.