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St. George would operate in deficit, says economist Jim Richardson

The preliminary findings of a study show St. George would operate at a deficit if incorporated, LSU economist Jim Richardson said Monday at the Baton Rouge Press Club.

In short, Richardson says operating St. George will be more expensive than forecast and projected revenues will be lower than supporters predict.

Richardson estimates the proposed city would have $51 million in expenditures—$17 million more than what St. George organizers estimate. Meanwhile, the economist says St. George would raise only $45.8 million in revenue—$12.6 million less than than what organizers have said. Richardson says his estimates are based on data provided by the city-parish finance department.

The expenditures include what St. George would have to pay for public works, drainage, city-parish pension buyouts and the $4 million organizers have proposed paying the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Department for additional protection.

“This analysis wold have some merit if we ran St. George like Baton Rouge is run. We’re not (and) that’s the entire point,” says Drew Murell, a St. George organizer. “Our opponents and big government types can’t conceive a responsible model of government that is responsive to the needs of its residents, not the elites.”

Richardson and Jared Llorens, director of the LSU Public Administration Institute, worked together on the $17,500 study commissioned by One Baton Rouge, a group against the incorporation of St. George.

This isn’t the first study to suggest St. George’s revenue estimates are inflated.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration said in May that St. George’s estimated sales tax revenue was off by $14 million and BRAC said last month they believe St. George’s revenues are over inflated by $20 million.

In March, St. George organizers released a $58 million budget that projected nearly $53.4 million in sales tax revenues and $34 million in expenses, leaving the city with a projected surplus of more than $20 million. The budget is $20 million less than the one proposed in 2014.

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