- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - In the battle between Baton Rouge and the proposed city of St. George, the Mall of Louisiana is key.

Critics of the new city effort say if St. George successfully incorporates, it takes with it the sales taxes generated within its borders - most notably from retail giants like the Mall of Louisiana and Perkins Rowe. In the process, it creates a $53 million budget deficit from the diverted sales taxes. St. George organizers say the deficit would be closer to $14 million.

Metro Councilman Ryan Heck tells The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1lZTIKc ) he’s learned that officials are close to securing a petition from the Mall of Louisiana to be annexed into the city of Baton Rouge, which would ensure its sales taxes remain within the city-parish coffers.

Tony Stephens, general manager of the mall, said he does not want to comment on potential annexation or the incorporation effort.

William Daniel, chief administrative officer to Mayor-President Kip Holden, said he couldn’t confirm whether there are plans to annex the mall.

“The mayor wants to keep the parish together and is committed to doing whatever it takes to keep the parish whole and vibrant,” he said.

The city-parish general fund is reliant on a 2 percent sales tax that funds vital governmental functions. The Mall of Louisiana generated about $9.2 million last year in those sales taxes, according to city-parish finance documents.

That means the mall property generated more than 5 percent of the total sales taxes collected for the parish budget. It was 3 percent of the total general fund.

Conversely, the proposed city of St. George budget expects to collect $80.8 million in revenues, which includes $67.7 million from sales tax collections. The budget projection assumes the Mall of Louisiana would be included.

So, if the city were to annex the Mall of Louisiana, it could mean a 14 percent decrease in total sales tax revenue to the proposed city of St. George or a hit of 11 percent to its overall revenues.

Lionel Rainey, a St. George spokesman, said the loss of mall revenue would not severely impact the proposed city budget.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com