City of Gonzales adopts 2023-24 budget

Staff Report

The Gonzales City Council adopted the 2023-24 budget during the May 8 meeting.

Sales taxes account for nearly 70 percent of the revenues in the general fund and a substantial portion of revenues in the capital outlay fund, according to minutes from the meeting.

Administrators project the city will collect $18,075,000 in sales taxes in the fiscal year compared to $17,380,000 in the previous year.

The City of Gonzales water tower displays "Jambalaya Capital of the World" along with a painting of a jambalaya pot.

The increase was based on consistent sales tax activity showing month over month increases during the current year and promising permitting of new sales tax generating facilities in recent months.

Gonzales has seen increases from every prior year since 2020.

The city has continued to have a healthy retail sector and has found success in the past year in new business creation.

In addition, Gonzales has benefitted from the state's Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers in recapturing some previously lost online sales revenue.

Other significant sources of revenue for the general fund include: property taxes ($1.7 million), license and permit fees ($1.74 million), and franchise fees ($1.25 million).

The Municipal Employees Retirement System employer portion of the retirement premium will remain the same at 29.5 percent.

The administration has included a 3 % cost-of-living pay increase to assist employees in maintaining their standard of living. It will be effective in the payroll period beginning June 7.

The administration also asked for one position: Project and Contract Management Clerk. The position manages document and reporting requirements for utilities, among other duties.

The Gonzales Fire Department requested a new training officer due to increasing demands to meet state and federal requirements.

Additionally, call volume has increased as the city has grown, and added support is needed.

Also reported in the minutes, the city's health insurance budget is expected to moderately decrease from $1,996,000 to $1,760,000.

The city projects to spend about $1,080,000 purchasing natural gas in the fiscal year.

Sewer rates will increase 5 % and water rates will go up 3 % to keep up with inflation and increased costs of operation.

The city has a loan from 2020 with the DEQ State Revolving Loan Fund for Wastewater Improvements. The current balance is $9,090,472.

Gonzales also has an outstanding loan with LDH from this year that was used to replace and relocated the main water line on Roddy Road. The balance is $1,693,702.

Additionally, the city has a loan with Hancock Whitney Bank for construction related to the Price LeBlanc PACE Center, which has been in progress. The balance is $88,392.

The city is proposing a capital outlay budget of $27,812,651.

A highlight of the budget is the $7.3 million for the PACE performing arts, conference, and events center. A loan will finance $4.5 million of the work. The Price LeBlanc family will donate $1.5 million. The Tanger Mall Economic Development Fund will provide $3,323,000. Hotel tax collections will fund $1,810,000.

The city has budgeted $8.2 million for various road improvements, including $2.8 million for the St. Francis Pkwy. Extension project, $2,940,000 for various road rehabilitation projects, $1 million for the Airline Highway Superstreet Improvement project, and $500,000 for Purpera Road drainage improvements.

The city plans to construct a $6.2 million community center on Darla Avenue. About $3 million is expected to be spent in this budget year with completion of the project coming in the next budget year.

The fire department is in need of a new engine ($800,000) and new ambulance ($300,000). Administrators are requesting permission to place orders now, though it is expected to take 30 to 36 months to take delivery.

Gonzales Weekly Citizen and Donaldsonville Chief, part of the USA Today Network of Louisiana, cover Ascension Parish and the greater Baton Rouge area. Follow at facebook.com/WeeklyCitizen and facebook.com/DonaldsonvilleChief.