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Community Events Could Be On Chopping Block As City Looks At Budget Cuts

Ryan Loyd
TPR News

Ahead of the start of classes on Aug. 26, San Antonio City Council members are hosting community-wide back-to-school fairs in each of their districts.

At the same time, the city's budget is closing in on adoption and deep cuts will have to be made. Mayor Julián Castro is recommending a cut to member discretionary funds, which are known as City Council Project Funds and are used for community events like the back-to-school fairs.

Currently each district gets more than $61,000.

According to District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, a reduction of that fund to $15,000, as Castro suggested, would limit his ability to provide programs like back-to-school fairs, immunization clinics, arts events and other programs that benefit the entire district.

Last Saturday, District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal sent nearly 2,000 children home with backpacks.

"We think that it's important to get young kids off to the school year right," he said.

Bernal said the cost of a fair is minimal compared to the impact.

"Whatever cost there is, to me is absolutely worth it," he said.

Bernal said a decrease of 75 percent in funding would not help balance the budget since the city is facing a budget gap of up to $50 million.

Saving $550,000 would not be insignificant, he said, but it won’t solve all the city’s financial problems.

"I think that if you look at the way that we spend our money, that we give it to community organizations, and help sponsor small programs, and we help the arts," he said. "Not everybody can get a big million dollar grant from the city, but a $500 grant, a $300 grant, or even a $4,000 to something like the San Antonio Film Festival, those are worth it."

District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez doesn't want the funds cut either and District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor said her constituents ask for many big projects that she already can't provide. She said at the very least she should be able to support small community events.

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, however, said he agrees with the cuts.

"Our fiscal reality requires reasonable sacrifice where it can be found," he said in an email. "These cutbacks should have no effect on how much council members can reach into their communities."

For Bernal, he thinks this is part of helping families meet their needs.

"I was talking to two parents, their kids were getting haircuts, and they were saying, "This is a blessing. I just lost my job. My husband just left me. I didn't know what we were going to do,'" he said.

"OK, I'm happy to do it," he said.