Outstanding Changes Provided in the Plan of Government
- The city boundaries were extended far enough to include almost all the highly populated area.
- The plan provided for unification or consolidation of the parish and city, as far as possible.
- The organization and form of the government was patterned closely after the council-manager system.
Political Boundaries Established by the Plan
There are three areas established by the plan: urban, industrial and rural. The industrial area is designated in order to reserve the area for industry and to separate it from the area in which the usual City-Parish services are provided. Industrial plants in this area must provide their own:
- Fire and Police Protection
- Sewerage Facilities
- Street Lights
- Trash and Garbage Collection
Urban vs. Rural Areas
No homes may be built in the industrial area. The plan also provides for the separation of the urban and rural areas of the parish into three wards. Ward 1 is all of the urban area. Ward 2 is the northern part of the rural area. Ward 3 is the southern part of the rural area.
A property owner may find that his property is in several different kinds of districts. The reason for creation of most of these districts is that before the city took over these areas from the police jury, the district system was the only means of providing the desired services. It is still utilized even in the city when an area of less than the entire city desires a particular improvement.
Taxes & Expenses
The revenues and expenditures of the City of Baton Rouge and Parish of East Baton Rouge are kept separately. However, some legal gymnastics have been necessary to take full advantage of the taxing power of the parish in the city or urban area. The property tax homestead exemption granted by state law applies to state, parish and special district taxes, but not to city taxes. Now while general state law empowers parishes to levy a 4 mill property tax for general purposes and cities to levy a 7 mill property tax, the state constitution has this to say: If a city of more than 1,000 inhabitants provides and maintains its own street system, a parish may levy only one-half of the permitted millage within the area of the city.
Consequently, if the City of Baton Rouge maintained its own streets, the parish property tax rate in the city would be limited to 2 mills rather than 4 mills. The Plan of Government, therefore, by simply turning the city streets over to the parish made two things possible:
- The collection of two additional mills of taxation in the city
- The application of the homestead exemption to this additional millage paid by city property owners
Ensuring Funds of the Parish & City Are Kept Separate
Individual budgets and accounts of the revenues collected for each political unit keep the funds straight. A budget for a city or a parish is no different from the family budget. Such a budget is a plan showing the revenue or income which can be expected and how it is to be spent. An account is merely a record of each budget item-how much is allotted for it and how much has been spent. City business is paid for out of the city budget and recorded in the proper city account. The same is done for the parish.
It must be understood that territorial divisions of the parish and city are less important than the division of powers and duties. A taxpayer residing in the city pays parish taxes as well as city taxes. The parish includes the urban or city area in its boundaries. Consequently, from parish taxes and revenues the parish can be given responsibility for the provision of all public ways such as highways, street, bridges, sidewalks and airports. The responsibility for providing street lights, regulating traffic and granting bus and taxi franchises is left to the city. The costs of maintenance of sewers, costs of garbage collection and building inspections must be paid for out of city revenues.
It must be remembered that the council merely approves the budgets. While the parish and the city funds are kept separate, the executive and administrative departments perform the duties of both the parish and the city. For example, when the director of public works spends money for street lights, such money comes from city funds in his account. Street maintenance costs are charged to parish funds. Overhead costs are borne by both city and parish funds. But since the director has a unified and consolidated department, the separateness of parish and city functions exists more in bookkeeping than in actual operations.
Each department operates in the same manner. An employee's salary may be paid one-half by the parish and one-half by the city, but only one check is issued.
The budgeting scheme has been followed exactly as planned. In the case of streets in the city, however, there has not been enough money for street improvements. By various legal means the city has turned over to the parish considerable portions of the money collected by the city sales taxes for street improvements. It should be noted that the Plan of Government itself requires the parish to allocate a portion of the parish tax revenues received from the industrial areas to Baton Rouge, Zachary, Central and Baker.
We no longer have two separate councils. The complete unification of all the executive and operating departments which are under the Mayor-President or the Council indicates how thorough consolidation has been. Consequently, underneath what are apparently separate governments is a real consolidation.