City of St. George Debate
BATON ROUGE - The push to create the City of St. George is facing harsh criticism.
"What they are doing is carving out a part of the city that is wealthier and whiter than what they left behind," One Community One School District leader Belinda Davis said. "We are creating another school district that is reducing the diversity in the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System."
Davis spoke at a meeting Thursday night where she said some want to break away from East Baton Rouge because of race and economic class.
Davis does not live inside the limits of the proposed city, but she believes if it's created, schools in Baton Rouge would be affected the most.
"While your success may be faster, what you are doing is handicapping the City of Baton Rouge after we have supported this area of town and its growth for decades," said Davis.
But the effort to incorporate St. George claims it's the other way around.
Supporters of the proposed city say two-thirds of the revenue in the East Baton Rouge budget comes from what would be St. George businesses and residents.
"That is not a factual statement," Davis said to those at the meeting. "A majority is sales tax. The biggest retail taxpayer in East Baton Rouge Parish is the Mall of Louisiana. So those dollars are being contributed to that area by all of the residents in East Baton Rouge Parish."
The "Incorporate St. George" leader, Dustin Yates, still stands by those numbers.
"I know that the tax dollars here are generated in the businesses in St. George just like I know the tax dollars generated in Baton Rouge are from businesses in Baton Rouge," Yates said.
Yates also said the City of St. George has nothing to do with race.
"All we are trying to do is keep some of the tax dollars that are in this area, in this area," he said. "All we are doing is taking in everything that is currently unincorporated in the parish. We are not leaving anyone out."
During the meeting, Davis also spoke about how an itemized budget from "Incorporate St. George" leaders has not been presented to her.
Yates said that budget should be done within the month.
Organizers need 18,000 signatures before getting an election to create the City of St. George. So far, volunteers have collected a little more than 3,000.