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San Antonio’s $1.2B bond package is now in the hands of voters after city council approval

San Antonio City Hall.jpg
Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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San Antonio City Hall

City bonds are big, bolstering bundles that boost its capital improvement plans outside of a city budget, and for the first time, San Antonio’s bond is more than a billion dollars.

The city council approved the $1.2 billion package of 183 projects Thursday. The projects range from major street repair, to drainage, new police and fire facilities, and includes a housing component. The city has about $6 billion in needs that could be covered by the bond but several council-picked citizen bond committees were charged with choosing the ones that were the most urgent.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg praised the work of the more than 160 committee members who — over the last five months — oversaw public meetings.

“There’s a lot of things I think we can look forward to, but most importantly, we get the downbeat started with the largest bond program this community has ever undertaken, written by the community and I’m very confident in and proud of the effort by our entire city,” Nirenberg said.

San Antonio’s bond propositions are often passed overwhelmingly every five years. The last one, in 2017, reached $850 million. The bond before that in 2012 was half of the 2022 bond at $596 million.

The 2022 bondis split into six propositions:

  • Streets, sidewalks and bridges: $472 million - 62 projects
  • Drainage and flood control: $170 million - 23 projects
  • Library and cultural facilities: $58 million - 9 projects
  • Public safety facilities: $78 million - 6 projects
  • Parks: $272 million - 82 projects
  • Housing: $150 million - 1 project

Council members approved the package 10-0. District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry was not present for the vote; a district staffer said he was tending to a family member.

For the first time, the city is including an affordable housing component — one that would focus on serving the “most vulnerable cost burdened low-income populations” according to the framework approved by council. The housing bond would contain $150 million split into five categories.

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City of San Antonio
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In a breakdown by council district, the city’s West Side, District 5, is getting the largest share of project funding at $95 million, or 8%, of the total bond. Most other council districts are getting about 5-7% of bond spending, or between $63 million and $79 million worth of projects.

In previous meetings, District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo noted her district has historically seen disinvestment in drainage projects. While the initial bond presentation suggested about $60 million for District 5, she said the additional $30 million supported by bond committee members is a welcome boost.

“Which will support our firefighters by funding the total renovation of a 50-year-old fire station and initiate a much-needed drainage project on Frio City Road,” she said.

District 2 Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez also noted his East Side district has seen less investment in previous bond packages and welcomed what he called an incredible investment for San Antonio even if there are projects that some disagreed with.

“It is the most equity focused bond we’ve seen yet, and in such a short time, the list evolved because of the involvement of our community members District 2 is receiving more money from the bond and greater percentage of the bond that we ever have before and that cannot go unsaid,” he said.

The city has included about $90 million of what it referred to as city-wide projects — those are projects while located in a specific council district are enjoyed by people from all over the city.

One controversial project considered city-wide was a proposed $20 million for the Sunken Gardens Theater in the bond’s early development. It had garnered pushback from residents near Brackenridge Park. The bond project was scaled back to $5 million of bond money that is earmarked specially for projects in Brackenridge Park and the Sunken Gardens Theater.

The other $15 million could come from the city's Midtown tax increment reinvestment zone but city officials said that would need to be more outside investment into Sunken Gardens before it’s finalized.

In the last days of development, the bond package had about $20 million in final adjustments before the vote that included an increase in public art funding and multiple large projects.

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