Gonzales City Council to take up budget, taxes at next meeting

Sonya T. Gordon

Gonzales City Council disposed of a number of important decisions at its April 26 meeting, which will lead to action at the May 10 meeting moving budgets and other funding decisions forward.

At the most recent Council meeting, council members voted to adopt a resolution to levy the millage rates on property within the city subject to ad valorem taxation in 2021. This included 5.17 mills for the city's General Fund and 3.20 mills for Gonzales Fire Department funds. 

More details will accompany the funds when final votes are held May 10 on the city's 2021-2022 annual budget, which runs June to May.

Up for final approval by the Council are the various division budgets for fiscal year 2021-2022. The budget is fairly balanced at this juncture. Sales taxes alone account for nearly 70 percent of the revenues in the General Fund and a substantial portion of the revenues in the Capital Outlay Fund.

It is projected the city will collect about $15.4 million in sales tax in the upcoming fiscal year as compared to $14.9 million this year. The represents a 3.36-percent increase in sales tax revenue. Overall, budget expenditures and revenues were close to even at more than $15.5 million.

The budgetary issues dovetail into action taken this month for an ordinance authorizing the city to issue its Taxable Hotel Occupancy Tax Bond for 2021 in an amount not to exceed $4.5 million. Mayor Barney Arceneaux said the bonds were sold at a good rate to Hancock Whitney Bank. Funds will help the city build and equip a performing arts, conference and exhibition center in the city. It will be known as the Price LeBlanc PACE Center, which will further increase the number of visitors to the city and the residents’ quality of life. This produces indirect revenues via increased hotel stays, retail sales, restaurant visits and more. 

The effort involves the city levying and collecting tax on paid occupancy of hotel rooms located in the city and not to exceed 2 percent of the rent or fee charged for the occupancy. City voters cast ballots equaling a majority in favor of this action in December 2018. The issuance of state bonds was approved by the Louisiana Bond Commission on March 18. Bond maturity has been arranged with the maximum total amount of principal and interest falling due in any year of the bonds, being the sum of $342,117 due in 2025, so that it never exceeds 75 percent of the net revenues of the 2018 tax.

In addition, council passed a resolution in agreement with Ascension Parish to commit to co-funding during fiscal years 2023-2026 a portion of a joint grant for state funding under the Transportation Improvement Program. The resolution is for the city to cover one half of the 20 percent required in total with the parish -- about $1.75 million each -- with an aggregate value of up to $11.76 million to fund the Super Street Improvement project along Airline Highway (US 61), Lowes Avenue to South Purpera Ave.