BR firefighters union opposes St. George incorporation effort

“Sales tax revenue is paid by everyone who shops in these areas, not just the ones that live in the area. Pulling away from the city-parish government, that has worked hard and made a parish that is able to attract new businesses into the parish, is not the right thing to do.” shane spillman, Baton Rouge Association of Firefighters Local 557 president

The union representing Baton Rouge city firefighters took a stance opposing the effort to create the new city of St. George and expressed concerns that decreased parish revenue could result in cuts to public safety.

The president of the Baton Rouge Association of Firefighters Local 557, Shane Spillman, said in a statement Monday morning that creating a separate city is not in the best interest of the parish.

“It amazes me that the people of the effort to incorporate seem to think that they themselves are supporting the entire unincorporated areas with their taxes,” Spillman said. “Sales tax revenue is paid by everyone who shops in these areas, not just the ones that live in the area. Pulling away from the city-parish government, that has worked hard and made a parish that is able to attract new businesses into the parish, is not the right thing to do.”

The union does not represent firefighters who work for fire departments outside of city limits.

Spillman also called the effort a class issue.

“It’s not a race issue, it is a class issue: the upper class wanting to break away and leave the less fortunate to try and succeed on their own,” Spillman said.

Some economists have estimated that if St. George incorporates, it would pull $53 million a year from the city-parish general fund, which funds the Baton Rouge Fire Department budget.

“Our budget is about 90 percent salaries and benefits,” Spillman said.

“Our department helps support most of the (other) parish fire departments with manpower when they need it on scenes and we also have a hazardous materials division that makes calls in the entire parish, so cuts to our budget could affect these services.”