Sales tax increase to fund fire, police, and projects on Oct. 14 ballot in Gonzales

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - With a 900-home development under construction and new businesses popping up, Gonzales is a city on the move. City leaders are now asking voters to think ahead.

The mayor, fire chief, and police chief are pushing for a half cent boost to the city's sales tax. If passed, the measure on this Saturday's ballot would generate an estimated $3.5 million annually.

"We're not stretched thin, but we don't want to get stretched thin," said Gonzales Fire Chief Tracey Normand, noting the money could help cover the costs of building a new fire station and hiring new firefighters to compensate for the expanding population.

"We want to provide our citizens with the highest level and highest quality of services, and it takes money to do that, and it takes tax money to do that," said Normand.

Police Chief Sherman Jackson says his department has been understaffed for a few years. The new tax, he says, would allow him to fill in some holes in his department. "It's a proactive measure, but it's a must right now, because for the last three or four years we've been seeing some tight, tight spots," said Jackson.

City leaders also have some other ideas for that tax revenue, including building a new community center for youth near Gonzales Middle School. It would include indoor volleyball and basketball courts. They also would like to see a new convention center near Cabela's and the Tanger Shopping Center, in hopes of drawing more groups and businesses to the city.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux says the tax is needed not only to compensate for city expansion. Current tax revenues, he says, have also become a problem in part because so many people are shopping online, not in city stores. He says he understands no one likes paying taxes, especially in the aftermath of the flood. Still, he says, the tax increase is worth it.

"We're not crazy about a tax, but sometimes it takes that to maintain the services that you have to do," he said.

The new tax is just one of several items on the ballot this weekend. Polls are open Saturday, October 14 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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