Updated at 5:45 p.m.
The proposed budget for San Antonio is reaching its highest amount yet, at $2.8 billion — about $157 million above last year. City Manager Sheryl Sculley will present her budget to the City Council Thursday morning.
“The budget reflects the priorities of the community and the City Council,” Sculley said. “We are focusing most of our resources on our core services: public safety, streets, and sidewalks. And now the affordable housing recommendations that the council has asked us to consider.”
This is year two of the city’s equity assessment of streets. The money allocated to streets is $110 million and for sidewalks its $19 million. About $11 million of the streets budget will be used to fix some of the oldest streets in the city, including neighborhoods inside loop 410 and some older neighborhoods in Districts 8 and 9, which are not inside the loop.
Also over the past year, the mayor’s Housing Policy Task Force has collected public input and made recommendations that would make housing affordable in San Antonio. In Sculley’s budget, there is an increase in affordable housing programs, bringing the total to about $25 million — an increase of about $17.1 million.
“It’s the first time there’s been a program of this magnitude to address affordable housing in San Antonio, and — paired with our bond program that includes infrastructure to support housing — we think we’d be able to have an impact on hundreds of homes in San Antonio,” Sculley said.
The plan includes new construction, repairing existing housing stock, and assistance for first time home buyers, she said. Part of the proposal also includes 13 new city employees in the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says that push is exactly what’s needed.
“I would say that this is, in fact, a back to basics budget with no tax rate increase,” Nirenberg said.
However, not all council members were in favor of some proposals in the budget. District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse said, “the flaw of equity is ‘I’ve got to take it from somebody else to cure 100 years of social injustice — I’ve got to take it from you to give to somebody else and that’s where it's broke.”
Brockhouse said a "back to basics budget" addresses the core services of government before “pet projects” that are “social re-engineering projects.”
“I don’t mind pushing into those areas once we know everything else is funded: police, fire, sidewalks, job creation, economic empowerment-type opportunities, job training opportunities, homelessness, all these basics need to be done and taken care of first, so at the core that’s the disagreement,” he said.
Sculley has also set aside $345,000 in the budget for the creation of the Frank Garrett Center to aid an estimated 35,000 youth, ages 16 to 24, who are "disengaged," meaning they are not in school and not employed. The center would focus on counseling, case management, and provide connections to education and employment opportunities.
“We’re going to leverage money from our delegate agencies — $400,000 — in agency support that has programs that these young people can take advantage of that we will team up these individuals,” Sculley said.
City employees would also see a pay raise of 1 percent, and the minimum wage will increase to $15, up from $14.25.
The budget also adjusts the fees for garbage collection. The large brown cart will now cost $29 per month, that’s an increase of $4.32. Residents who downgrade to a medium cart will pay $21 per month. Sculley said the change is to encourage more residents to switch to smaller carts and embrace recycling.
“If we raise a generation of children that are recyclers, this problem will take care of itself," she said.
By the city’s charter, the council must approve a budget by the mid-September to be ready in time for the start of the fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules
NOTE: Updated with comments from Mayor Ron Nirenberg and District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse.