GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Voters in Gonzales may soon have to dig deeper into their pockets if a proposed half-cent sales tax increase gets passed by the city council and then approved by voters in October. The proposal went before council members Monday night. While there was no vote, the plan still has a few hurdles to clear before becoming reality.
The proposed half cent tax increase on purchases is supposed to funnel money directly into the fire and police departments. Mayor Barney Arceneaux says it is the right thing to do.
"This is the thing that we need to do to maintain the service that we're giving to our citizens," Arceneaux said.
Currently, the annual budget for the police department is just over $5.6 million while the fire department operates with roughly $3.3 million a year. It is enough to get by for now, but Arceneaux believes more has to be done as the city continues to expand.
"This is something we feel is needed in the city right now. We're a growing city, let's face it. We've got more population, we've got more business coming in which means more law enforcement will take place and fire service and EMS service," Arceneaux added.
The half cent increase would generate about $3.5 million for the departments. Gonzales Fire Chief Tracey Normand says he already has a plan for the money and the need is there.
"I've got to hire more firefighters and I've got to build another station and I have to buy more equipment. Under the way our sales taxes have looked the last couple of years we've been kind of flat," Normand said.
Some taxpayers, though, may not be on board with spending more money, especially because so many are still struggling after the August flood.
"I agree with you. I mean it's something that I can't tell you that I actually love it that we have to do that right now but it's just one of those things that you have to do," Arceneaux said.
While he admits asking residents to dig deeper into their pockets is a tall order, Arceneaux says it comes down to whether they want better quality from their fire and police departments.
"Right now we just feel like this is the time for us to move forward," Arceneaux said. "It's for the people to look at and for the people to vote on. They either want it or they don't want it."
While no action was taken Monday night, council members say they will make a decision at the next meeting on May 8, 2017. If passed, it will then need approval from the Bond Commission but it is the voters in Gonzales that will ultimately have the final say on the proposal.
If passed, the measure is expected to go before voters on October 14, 2017.