Council introduces tax for fire and police

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Gonzales Fire Chief Tracey Normand explains need for tax in front of city council on March 27.

The Gonzales City Council held a meeting on Monday, March 27 to discuss a one-half percent sales tax that would be dedicated to fire and police protection.

The last half-scent tax for fire and police was passed in 2001. The department's concern is that more money is being needed for the future of fire and police protection in Gonzales.

Money in this fund goes toward things like retirement, training, and equipment This includes things like fire trucks. However, citizens in attendance voiced concern about where the extra money would go. The council replied, along with Gonzales Fire Chief Tracey Normand.

"They won't have to pull as much money out the general fund," Police Chief Sherman Jackson said.

City Clerk Clay Stafford tried putting it into perspective.

"[Sherman] is right," Stafford said. "They're going to spend what they need to spend. They're not going to spend 3-and-a-half million just because they got it. If they got a half-cent tax at 3-and-a-half [million], and they get another one at 3-and-a-half, that means 7 million has to go to them. They spend 9. Now the general fund has to come up with 2 to get them there. Today the general fund is coming up with 5 and 6."

According to the council, the tax will free up the city. Fire and police need more funds to do what they do. For instance, the fire department is growing by a third, with the same funds since 2001.

"When you hire someone, with all the training, equipment and benefits, you're close to a hundred grand per employee," Normand said. "So if I put a third more out there, most of that will be eaten up in employee benefits."

Normand continued with the price of vehicles like the station ambulance ($150,000), and the cost of six tires for the ambulance ($600).

"And they roll constantly," Normand said. "In 2001, a fire truck cost us $300,000. The last one we bought was $625,000. Every year expenses go up, but we don't get anymore revenue. To maintain, if we don't grow, it's going to affect our Class 2 fire rating."

There will be more to come on the fire and police tax. This is a preliminary discussion. The cost of growth, equipment and retirement are the main talking points.

Lastly, the council unanimously approved a Special Event Permit request for El Paso restaurant, located at 2028 W Highway 30 to host a Cinco de Mayo party from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on May 5, 2017.