Bill to set St. George tax rate

On the final day to file bills, a Central state senator introduced legislation to set up the municipal framework for a city of St. George in East Baton Rouge Parish.

State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, said his Senate Bill 638 would provide for tax collections and distributions, along with services, should the people in the unincorporated neighborhoods of southeast Baton Rouge vote to create St. George.

White said there will be a gap of time between the vote and the government taking over.

SB638 anticipates the incorporation of the new municipality by creating a transition district and authorizing a maximum 2 percent sales tax to help with cash flow. The tax proceeds would go toward essential public services.

East Baton Rouge Parish collects sales taxes and sends part of the money to provide services in the municipalities, such as Baton Rouge, Central and Zachary, as well as in the unincorporated portions of the parish.

White said that amounts to about $28 million for the section of the parish that would become St. George. The supporters’ map shows the proposed city would be unincorporated areas south and east of Baton Rouge.

Between the birth of the new city and the selection of a mayor and city council, followed by the city’s official governmental organization and a tax election, a transition needs to be in place, White said. The transition period could last four years under the measure.

“Nothing will happen unless there is a new city,” White said.

Twenty-five percent of registered voters in the proposed city must sign a petition asking for an election. Once submitted, signatures are certified by the registrar of voters. Then Gov. Bobby Jindal would have to call a special election.

Jindal has indicated he would call the election, if enough voters sign the petition.

Organizers hope to add the issue to the Nov. 4 ballot. If a majority of the voters agree, then there would be a new city.

The new city would be about 84.6 square miles and have a population of 107,262 people, making St. George the fifth largest city in the state.

The idea has plenty of opponents, including Mayor-President Kip Holden and Metro Councilman John Delgado, who say the effort is divisive.