GONZALES — Gonzales City Council has approved a ballot measure to raise the city’s sales tax by half a percent during a special meeting last month.
After the 4-0 approval by Mayor Maria Orozco, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Funk and Council Members Lorraine Worthy and Paul Miller on Aug. 4, the item is on track to be included in the general election in November.
Voter approval would mean sales tax in Gonzales would go from 8.25% to 8.75%, which would last through 2044.
City Manager Rene Mendez said Gonzales’ sales tax is among the lowest in the county, and raising half a percent would put it in line with neighboring cities. A prior half-cent transaction use tax generates an estimated $600,000 per year, Mendez said.
“We’re estimating a revenue source of at least $600,000 a year after things come back to some sort of normalcy,” Mendez said about the projected revenue for the measure.
The measure would create a general-purpose use for the funds, and would only require a simple majority to pass. The order, Mendez explained, would come with a prioritization of paying for a community center followed by street and sidewalk improvements.
With it being a general-purpose fund, however, the money is not necessarily required to go to those projects. Specialized funding would require a more categorized tax initiative, which would take longer to prepare and require a two-thirds majority to pass.
Mendez said the existing TUT helps pay for the city’s pool, restrooms, youth and senior programs and grant programs.
To help drive in the prioritization of the general-purpose taxes to be used for a community center, the council also approved by a 4-0 vote a directive to the city’s planning commission to change Gabilan Court’s zoning designation from Residential-Medium Density (R2) to Public Facility (PF).
“What we’re trying to present to you is the preponderance of the city’s intent that we are pointing in that direction,” Mendez said.
He explained that changing the zoning shows intent to build only a community center with the PF designation. Had it been left an R2 designation, the property could instead be used for residences rather than a center if a future council decision so chose.
“It constrains what are allowable uses,” Mendez said. “It minimizes the perception that it could be used for something else.”
The zoning change would need to be completed by Sept. 30 in order to not only give a sense of urgency, but also to make good on the city’s intent to only use funds for a community center, according to Mendez.
The cost to Gonzales to add the measure to the general election ballot is projected to be between $5,000 and $20,000, which is less costly than if it were placed on a special election ballot in 2021. Mendez noted Covid-19’s potential shifting of voting methods to be absentee in nature might change those estimates.