Dueling budget reports paint different St. George pictures
BATON ROUGE - Supporters of the proposed city of St. George released details today about how they plan to fund their government, and it doesn't include raising taxes.
The group hired national public accounting firm Carr, Riggs and Ingram, whose report shows an $11.4 million annual budget surplus for the proposed city. It drastically counters a report funded by St. George opponents which suggested they wouldn't be able to generate enough money to set up the city.
That analysis, paid for by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and Area Chamber and conducted by Faulk & Winkler in December, showed an annual operating deficit nearly matching the surplus boasted by CRI.
"This is just taking bad numbers and putting an accountant's stamp on it," said John Delgado, Metro Council member and long-time St. George opponent. "At the end of the day, this doesn't do anything."
"CRI is a firm that does this on a daily basis," said Lionel Rainey, St. George Organizer, "for over 500 different municipalities and you also have to take into account the things that they take into consideration that differ from Faulk & Winkler, that's the amount of sales tax generated in this area."
The budget assumes that the entire unincorporated area generates $84 million in sales tax. Subtract $9 million from annexations and $14 million from the industrial area, and the rest of the unincorporated area of Baton Rouge is left with $61 million.
CRI calculated the St. George sales tax revenue at $59 million, Faulk & Winkler calculated it to be around $46 million.
"For [opponents] to be correct, [you'd] have to believe that $15 million in sales tax is generated from Towne Center and rural parts of the Parish that literally have little to no sales tax revenue," Rainey said. "Translation would be that almost $800 million would have to be spent by consumers in Towne Center and these rural parts. In comparison to the $450 million that is generated by the mall. This is a completely illogical estimation of sales tax revenues."
"The most they could get, the very most, is $60 million and for that to happen they would have to get 100 percent of all the sales taxes generated in all the unincorporated areas of Baton Rouge, not just St. George," Delgado said. "It's impossible. These numbers are bad to begin with and if your presumptions are flawed your results will be flawed. I can find 12 guys who say they saw Elvis at a Kmart last week, that doesn't mean that it's true."
Faulk & Winkler concluded that St. George government would have to increase property taxes by at least 20.5 mills, with about half to cover an operating deficit of $12.6 million per year and the rest to build new schools.
"There is no money for education in this report," Delgado said. "Zero dollars for schools for your kids, so if you want to create the city of St. George to build a school system for your kids, this does not do it."
Rainey argues the school budget will come in the future, but first they need a city.
"Faulk & Winkler intermingled the school budget with the city budget," Rainey said. "Those are completely, totally and intentionally separate taxes and separate millages which fund a school system."
The City of St. George organizers have until May 29 to produce 300 additional signatures if they're to finish their petition which would put the matter to a vote. That's assuming current signatures aren't withdrawn or removed.