October 14, when voters line up to choose a new State Treasurer and State Representative, in the place of Ed Price who recently won Troy Brown's place in the Senate, the City of Gonzales has an important initiative on the ballot.
Mayor Barney Arceneaux called a small press conference on Friday, September 8 to discuss the initiative, a half-cent sales tax hike.
"I'm like the next person," Arceneaux said. "Do I like tax? No. I don't particularly care for it, but by the same token sometimes it's a necessity. And this time we feel like it's the way to go with this thing."
So, why does Gonzales need the money?
According to City Clerk Clay Stafford, a half cent would bring the city an annual $3.5 million dollars in revenue. This would go towards several city initiatives. First, it goes where it is obviously going to be needed: civil services.
Why does the city council feel civil services needs better funding?
Growth puts more stress on city services like police and fire protection. It puts more stress on sewer and drainage. And it creates more traffic. With the current shape of the Louisiana State budget, Arceneaux believes that building new roads, for instance to divert cars away from LA 30, may fall on the back of the city.
"I want to make sure we can perform services," Arceneaux said. "But by the same token I want money in the bank, as well."
Ascension Parish is listed as number one or two in Louisiana (depending on who tells it) as fastest growing in the state. The Capitol Region Planning Commission has estimated that Ascension may actually double in size over the next 25 years. Dou-ble. Mayor Arceneaux knows that with growth comes more responsibility.
"It's a quality of life situation that we're all into right now," Arceneaux said. "We want to maintain that quality of life in Gonzales. I think our people deserve it and believe in it."
Since the "bubble" post-flood has burst, sales tax in Gonzales has flatlined. Not only that, major stores popping up in Prairieville and online shopping has hurt the city. Arceneaux recalls a time when Wal-Mart in Gonzales was the only one in the parish. Now there are five.
So, we get it. The added revenue would go for EMS, police, fire, drainage and traffic. What else?
The Mayor also reports a plan to build a new Convention Center near 30. The current Civic Center needs repairs, but space and parking has long been inadequate.
Need I even mention that Gonzales would have loved FEMA to supply the city with enough funding to replace the building, but that did not happen. A bigger, better convention / civic center built near the hotels on 30 would draw visitors and keep the restaurants and shops busy. More people means more money into the hands of workers and business owners.
Naturally, the added traffic would require new arteries to divert people off of 30. That's where the city comes in. Stafford said adding bike lanes for the safety of pedestrians is shaping up to become a necessity, as well.
Moreover, not only does Gonzales intend to build a new convention center, but they also intend on building a Community Outreach Center somewhere by the Kennedy Heights subdivision. The city needs its own basketball courts for youth programs. High school gymnasiums are becoming more difficult to get a hold of with the growing list of sports Ascension Public Schools is offering.
Stafford and Arceneaux spoke on behalf of the council, who stands unified on this proposition.