Gonzales City Council passes budget, PACE Center funding underway

Sonya T. Gordon

The Price LeBlanc Performing Arts, Conference and Events (PACE) Center is one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to the Gonzales City’s approval of funding it.  The Council included the matter as part of the 2021-2022 City of Gonzales budget, which ends May 31, 2022.  The Council meeting was held May 24, when members approved the budget.

The Gonzales City’s approved funding the Price LeBlanc Performing Arts, Conference and Events (PACE) Center.

The budget reflects the funds required to ensure the City of Gonzales can provide various services to its residents (examples:  water, sewer, roads, etc.). Most of the General Fund revenues, 70 percent, comes from sales taxes, but the Capital Outlay Fund also represents a big piece of that pie.  Sales taxes to be collected this year will total about $15.4 million in projections, an increase over the last annual budget’s $14.9 million – a 3.36 percent increase. This is the second largest increase percentage wise since fiscal year 2017.  Other projected sources of revenue in the budget include property taxes at $1.457 in property taxes, $1.513 million in license and permit fees and $1-plus million in franchise fees.

The city is proposing a Capital Outlay Budget of $17,639,592.  It in part will cover $8.6 million in construction of the PACE Center, which could be filled with dancers, concert goers and businessmen in a few years to come.  Construction should begin by the end of the current fiscal year, which begins June 1.  About $4.5 million of the cost will be financed by a loan, $1.5 million by a donation from the Price LeBlanc family, $1.5 million by the Tanger Mall Economic Development Fund and $1 million by hotel tax collections received to date.  The project was delayed last year due to COVID. 

This section of the budget also covers:

Refurbishing the 50-year-old Roddy Road main water line -- $1.2 million funded by a loan from the Louisiana Department of Health.

Building a road to connect Burnside and Darla streets as it runs east to west.  It will provide easier access to the hospital and help relieve highway traffic congestion

Creating another connectivity road project between Veterans and Commerce avenues to relive increased traffic at Veterans Avenue and Highway 30.  Council has made an agreement with Ascension Parish to co-fund a portion of the state joint Each is to pay about $1.75 million as part of this overall Transportation Improvement Program grant.

Funding the Super Street Improvement project along Airline Highway (US 61), Lowes Avenue and South Puerperal Avenue.  Also, as part of the grant mentioned, about $1.75 million each with up to $11.76 million to fund the   (Overall, the City budgeted $2.946 million dedicated to all City road improvement projects, which includes $300,000 for various street overlays).

Introducing a “Series 2014 Bond Reserve Fund” and a “Utility Fund Investment Account”, both serving the purpose of securing future loan payments in case of impending default. Current balances in these accounts total $963,420.

In other budget matters, the Council approved funding for:

  • Adding one technical position for Buildings and Grounds Department under the General Fund.
  • Hiring another technician for the Streets and Drainage Department.
  • Improving resources for addressing drainage concerns.
  • Hiring two additional Gas and Water Department employees.
  • Giving dedicated employees a cost-of-living increase of 2 percent.
  • Covering $183.548 million or an increase of 11.74 percent over last year in health insurance.
  • Projecting $597,00 to purchase natural gas with gas sales project to be about $1.485 – more customers, gas prices lowered somewhat and projected revenue and expense to remain about the same.
  • Estimating the overall cost of operating the Gas Department to be at $645.678, bringing the projected cost of the gas system to $1.242 million.
  • Increasing sewer rates 5 percent and water rates 3 percent.