Baton Rouge Redevelopment Agency to Seek $3M

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, which said it is on track to run out of money by early 2016, plans to ask the Metro Council for $3 million in annual funding to keep the organization running. But Mayor-President Kip Holden charged the organization with "bullying" him and the council for money.

         Officials with the RDA, a public agency responsible for reviving blighted areas in Baton Rouge, said Monday that along with seeking funds from city-parish coffers, they will look for private donations in order to stay in business. If the Metro Council follows Holden's lead and declines to give public money for the RDA, the organization plans to pursue a dedicated tax.

         "We have exhausted all of our ability to create any funding," Walter Monsour, RDA executive director told The Advocate’s Timothy Boone. "Everything we have looked at shows you need a dedicated money stream to allow redevelopment authorities to continue programs."

         Holden said the city-parish doesn't give any organization $3 million a year because there are too many obligations it has to meet, such as repairing decaying infrastructure, covering the cost of anti-poverty programs and meeting the pension obligations of police officers and firefighters.

         Holden criticized Monsour, who served as his chief administrative officer before going over to head up the RDA, for making "more money than the president of the U.S." Monsour has a base salary of $265,000 a year.

         Since its inception in 2007, the RDA has been operating on unreliable and nonrecurring funding sources, such as New Market Tax Credits and grants from the East Baton Rouge Mortgage Finance Authority.

         Currently, the RDA is operating on an annual budget of about $1 million a year, Monsour said. The organization is seeking to boost its annual funding to $3 million, which would be split between operational and program costs.

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