Bexar County commissioners Tuesday approved a nearly $1.7 billion budget for the next fiscal year.
Officials say higher property values allowed the county to lower the tax rate while increasing services for family justice, neighborhoods, and public safety.
County commissioners took a long look at a law enforcement budget request and in the end, approved the largest program change, according to Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, in anyone’s memory.
The program will be phased in over three years and adds 122 positions from detention officers, patrol and investigators to security positions at the courthouse.
"We asked for five additional bailiffs and six law enforcement deputies for courthouse security," Pamerleau said.
Pamerleau told commissioners last week that Bexar County reported more than 33% of the state’s incidents of people trying to bring weapons into the courthouse – yet is the only major metro county in the state that lacks armed guards at the entrances.
"The environment has changed so we need to make sure that we keep our seat of government safe. And so that addresses areas that we believe need to have greater security," she said.
The program also will upgrade some of the security positions – those who man the metal detectors – to law enforcement positions.
The budget adds one new patrol district to each precinct in the county and increases the number of patrol officers by 20, more than double the number of new officers the sheriff requested.
The budget, which provides a 7% pay increase for some county employees, on average, and cost-of-living increases for others. It adds a pilot program to streamline family cases, and to measure the success of programs that address child abuse and neglect issues.
Though property values have increased over the last year, the county set this year’s tax rate 1.2 cents lower per $100 valuation.