- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach is pushing for a new 15-year, quarter-cent sales tax.

The American Press reports (https://bit.ly/1eOXZNb ) the city council will vote June 3 on whether to put the proposal on the ballot for October.

If the council approves the election, Roach said Tuesday the city would continue educating the public on the tax, which would generate about $6 million.

“I think we have enough time in order to answer detailed questions that the employees want to know and the taxpayers want to know before they vote on the proposition Oct. 24,” he said.

In 2006, voters approved a $90 million bond issue. The bond was secured by a pledge of gambling revenue, and the gambling revenue was backed up by the quarter-cent sales tax, which was never levied. The sales tax was part of the proposition as security for the debt.

Roach talked about how Hurricane Rita took out one of the city’s gambling destinations in 2005. “We said that we would only levy that tax if gaming revenue was short or insufficient to pay the installments due on the bonds,” he said. “What we’re proposing is taking that same quarter-cent and actually levy it.”

Roach gave examples of the tax when associated with certain spending levels for consumers. Annually, for every $1,000 spent, a resident would spend an additional $2.50. For every $5,000 spent, a resident would pay $12.50 in tax.

City Administrator John Cardone said the tax would help give the city a competitive pay scale and assist in retaining employees. He mentioned the issues detailed in the city’s 2014 salary survey, where it was identified that 98 percent of the city’s non-public-safety employees were receiving below-average pay. The police and fire departments also were below average. Cardone then touched on the recently completed fire rating by the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana. The city has a Class 2 rating.

“We do know down the road, more than likely, we are going to have to add additional fire stations,” Cardone said. He said the stations would cost millions of dollars when adding in the associated equipment and staffing needs.

If approved, the tax would make Lake Charles even with the sales tax of other areas in the region, Roach said.

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Information from: American Press, https://www.americanpress.com

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