GONZALES - A proposed half-cent sales tax goes before voters Oct. 14 and if approved would generate $3.5 million annually for the city of Gonzales to maintain and improve fire and police protection and build a new civic center as well as a community youth center.

"If the city wasn't growing the way it is, we probably wouldn't have to ask for this," Mayor Barney Arceneaux said last week.

"We want to maintain the quality of life our citizens have come to expect," he said.

Arceneaux said that he and the City Council "felt it was the proper time to bring this issue to the forefront." 

Gonzales officials have said the city has been looking at stagnant sales tax revenues of approximately $14 million in recent years as shoppers increasingly buy online and retail grows outside the city limits. 

Voters in Gonzales last approved a sales tax in 2001, a half-cent sales tax for fire, police and sanitation, City Clerk Clay Stafford said. 

Local sales taxes in Gonzales are 09.5 cents on the dollar, which includes 2 cents for the city, 2 cents for the School Board, a half cent for the parish and 5 cents for the state.

The Tanger Outlet shopping center economic development district has an additional 1-cent sales tax, making a total sales tax there of 10.5 cents on the dollar or 10.5 percent.

If the new half-cent sales tax for Gonzales gets the nod, some of the money raised would go toward additional police and fire protection in the southern part of the city, where the Conway mixed-use development is under construction on La. 44, Arceneaux has said.

The project's developers have offered the city about an acre of property to build a combined substation for a fire and police department.

The sales tax would also fund the construction of a convention center estimated to cost $9 million in the area of La. 30 and Interstate 10, home to numerous hotels, as well as Tanger and Cabela's.

The civic center would also be used as an emergency shelter when needed.

If voters approve the new sales tax, the city also plans to build a community center in the southern part of the city near Gonzales Middle School that would include multiple indoor courts for basketball and volleyball and rooms for after-school programs. 

Envision Gonzales, a political action committee, formed in August to promote the new sales tax, has mailed out fliers to residents asking for their vote.

"Our current 2-cent sales tax funds Gonzales' public safety programs, roads, recreation, utilities and garbage service throughout our city," the literature says.

"Additional revenue means more police, fire and EMS services, more recreational and gym facilities, more event possibilities to attract more tourism dollars and more effective service for our community," it says.

Derrick Coco, chairman of the political action committee, said last week, "I'm not a big fan of taxes myself, but in some cases we have to prepare ourselves. We're competing against Amazon."

"We're trying to do more things in the the city, plus we're growing," said Coco, who also represents Gonzales as a voting member on the board of the Ascension Economic Development Corp.

With local taxes, "you see where your money goes," he said.

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.