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Mailer controversy

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BATON ROUGE - The fight over the proposed City of St. George is heating up in mailboxes across southeast Baton Rouge.

Leaflets were sent out in an effort to sway the people who have signed the petition to form the city, to take their names off the list. It was sent to people with their voter information filled out and a signed letter from a couple that once supported St. George, but changed their minds about the breakaway efforts.

The message reads, "We signed the St. George petition. But when we saw what St. George would do to our tax bill and to our schools, we withdrew our signatures. We're writing to ask you to do the same.

"To form a city, you have to have a plan for how you're going to pay the bills. St. George organizers do not have that plan.

"An independent CPA firm, Faulk & Winkler LLC, found that just to break even, St. George would have to impose one of the larges property tax increases our area has ever seen. And St. George would leave us with even fewer schools than we had before.

"After all the facts came out, we felt we could not have our names attached to a proposal that would increase taxes and displace so many children from their schools."

One St. George supporter that received the leaflet Thursday was shocked to get the mailer.

"I thought it was wrong of them, whoever, to mail this to my house," said Corey Buck.

Better Together volunteer Diane Henley said the leaflet was paid for with money raised by grassroots campaigning.

People who are interested in removing their names are instructed to mail the leaflet to a P.O. Box for Better Together. Then, it will be dropped off at the Registrar of Voters Office.

The Registrar of Voters is currently certifying the names on the St. George petition and said any one who returns the pamphlet will have their name removed, adding that the pamphlet is a legitimate request to have names removed since the leaflet includes all required information.

A supporter of Better Together believes the people who signed the letter on the leaflet aren't the only ones who have changed their minds.

"There are some that would like to get their signature off and I think a lot of the ones that have signed really don't understand the full story," said Pat Rusk.

St. George organizers posted a response to the leaflet to their Facebook page late Thursday:

"In an attempt to deceive voters, the mailer claims that St. George will cause a tax increase. We're projecting a surplus, not a tax increase. The Faulk and Winkler analysis is based on false assumptions and biased speculation. They know if they tell you taxes are going up you might not vote for it. We released a rebuttal that discredited the Faulk and Winkler report and asked that they indicate where we are wrong. We're still waiting.

"This is nothing more than another deceitful, desperate, and potentially illegal, attempt to intimidate signers of the petition and prevent a vote from occurring. We believe it potentially borders on voter intimidation and tampering. We will continue to fight for better schools, local control of tax revenue and your right to vote."

The Registrar of Voters said submissions to have names taken off the petition will not delay the certification process of the petition. The petition could be certified in the next two weeks, clearing the way for a vote.


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