Judge rules against effort to create City of St. George
BATON ROUGE - A judge ruled against allowing the incorporation effort of the proposed City of St. George.
A legal fight is expected to drag on even after the decision through appeals.
"Next step's court of appeals, First Circuit Court of Appeals. We'll write our briefs. We'll file our appeal, and we will continue fighting as far as we have to," said Andrew Murrell with St. George's legal team.
The decision was released Tuesday afternoon by Judge Martin Coady.
Coady wrote in his ruling the proposed city wouldn't be able to balance its budget and St. George would start off in a $3 million deficit on day one.
"The idea that we don't have enough money is farcical. The judge was presented with some fuzzy math," Murrell said.
Earlier this month, both sides of the dispute rested their cases.
The proposal to split St. George from the rest of the capital city was approved during 2019's fall election with a 54-percent vote.
"Our right to vote has been invalidated. Our right to go to the ballot box and decide our own fate and our own future was sued by the Mayor President of our own parish," Murrell said.
"There's no plan. That's why we're here today," Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome said during the trial.
Broome said she wasn't challenging the vote to create a new city, but argued that she needs to know how the new city will affect her parish.
Tuesday, Broome released the following statement:
We are pleased with today’s decision because the Judge found there was no clear plan to provide basic services for the citizens inside the proposed city. Our legal challenge was always part of the democratic process and we will continue the work to improve the services for all citizens in East Baton Rouge Parish.
"We're nervous, we're excited," St. George spokesperson Andrew Murrell said after the item passed in 2019. "It's a long time coming for us. We're very excited to finally have our chance to have a final say in this matter."
Broome's private lawyer, Brett Furr, said separating St. George would be detrimental to everyone involved.
"They were going to take about $48 million in taxes out of the city-parish budget. It was going to result in a cut to services in about 35 to 45 percent, and we thought that would be devastating to the citizens of Baton Rouge, and really for the citizens of St. George as well," he said.
The appeal will likely be filed in the next few weeks.
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