Fast Start for St. George
Efforts to launch a new municipality in East Baton Rouge Parish — the proposed City of St. George — got off to a quick start last week.
Supporters of the city gathered more than 2,000 signatures. A total of 18,000 signatures of registered voters, or 25 percent of those registered to vote within the proposed city limits, must be certified by Registrar of Voters Elaine Lamb, in order for Gov. Bobby Jindal to call an election on the matter. Supporters say they plan to get 20,000, in order to make up for any invalid signatures.
State law sets forth no time limit for gathering the signatures. So supporters have as much time as they need to finish their task. Norman Browning, chairman of Local Schools for Local Children, which is sponsoring the incorporation effort, said petitions are on hand at 13646 Perkins Road Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Supporters say they hope to have enough signatures to present to the governor later this year or in the spring.
The proposal would appear on the election ballot in the next regular or special election, and voters in the proposed municipality would have the right to vote it up or down. If the proposition is approved by voters, Gov. Jindal would appoint an interim mayor, police chief, and city council, who would serve until the next regular election.
The boundaries of the proposed city include all of the incorporated areas of East Baton Rouge Parish south and east of the City of Baton Rouge. They are almost identical to the boundaries of the St. George and Eastside fire districts, if those districts were combined.
Supporters of the new city say one of their motivations is to facilitate the creation of a new independent community school district in Southeast Baton Rouge. In the spring, the legislature passed and the governor signed into law a bill to create such a district. However, it cannot be implemented until a constitutional amendment is passed to authorize it. Supporters of the district have been thwarted in their efforts to amend the constitution by the requirement of a two-thirds majority vote in the state House and Senate.
However, Article VIII of the Louisiana Constitution provides an additional means of creating a school district. The article refers to “city school boards” created by municipal government. A constitutional amendment would not be necessary
to create a city school board.
The proposed City of St. George would also control planning and zoning in the new city, the issuance of permits, and the repair and maintenance of city roads and drainage.
Police protection would continue to be provided by the Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish, while fire protection would be provided by the St. George and Eastside Fire Districts.
The City of St. George would include about 86 square miles of land and more than 107,000 people. It would be the 5th largest city in Louisiana after New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Lafayette.
The boundaries of the proposed City of St. George and the Southeast Baton Rouge Community School District would not necessarily be the same. If the city created a city school board, the district would operate within the city unless the legislature passed an act by a simple majority to approve a larger district.