The San Antonio City Council passed a $2.8 billion budget for 2019 Thursday. This is the city’s largest budget — about $100,000 more than last year.
It continues Mayor Ron Nirenberg's policies, including recommendations from his housing policy task force and equity budgeting for previously neglected areas of town.
Nirenberg says it’s a back-to-basics budget that funds police, fire, libraries, parks and affordable housing.
“The lack of affordability in our community, where the average family in San Antonio can no longer afford the average home here, is impacting everyone. It impacts everyone’s pocketbook when we have the supply demand imbalanced. It also results in the most vulnerable members of our community left in many cases without a home or without a safe home,” he said.
The final version of the budget includes $4 million in funding for projects suggested by council members, including additional code enforcement officers, a vacant lot development program, resources for veterans and military spouse employment and a homeless outreach navigator.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley said the additional money came from unexpected CPS Energy revenues in July.
“We had a $3 million increase over what we had estimated in the budget this summer and so the council was able to use that revenue for those amendments,” she said.
In a news release distributed shortly after the vote, the city highlighted several portions of the budget.
- Increased street maintenance funding from $99 million to $110 million, continuing a two-year program to improve the average street condition index to 70 in Council Districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 and more funding to address poor street conditions inside Loop 410 and the oldest areas of Council Districts 8 and 9.
- Sidewalk funding of $19 million. Sidewalks are prioritized based on criteria such as proximity to schools, pedestrian safety, transit and healthcare facility access.
- Filling police vacancies in the next year. With San Antonio Police Department’s enhanced recruitment efforts and four academy classes scheduled next year, unfilled positions are estimated to be less than 50 by the end of 2019.
- Two additional SAFFE officers.
- Five additional Animal Care Services positions to improve response times to resident requests and to address illegal sale of puppies online, roadside and outdoor markets.
- Property tax relief for seniors and residents with disabilities. In 2019, the city will forego $52 million in property tax revenue from the senior and disabled homestead exemptions and frozen city tax payments. The city makes up only 20 percent of the annual property tax bill.
- New funding of $17.1 million for the implementation of the mayor’s Housing Policy Taskforce recommendations. When combined with current funding, the proposed budget includes $25 million for affordable housing supported by general funds, Housing and Urban Development grants and the housing trust.
- Three additional code enforcement officers.
- New funding of $1 million to operate and maintain recently completed parks capital projects to include 108 new acres.
- Eight new parks police officers are added for linear creekways and new parks funded through the voter approved bond program.
Council members Greg Brockhouse of District 6 and Clayton Perry of District 10 attempted to introduce last-minute amendments to reduce the city’s tax rate and the money reserved for housing policy. But both measures were voted down by other council members 9-2.
“When are we going to provide some tax relief for our home owners here in San Antonio? That was the number one issue when I was campaigning, and that continues to be the number one issue for homeowners,” Perry said.
He had advocated for a city homestead exemption that was ultimately not included in the budget.
The mayor said suggestions by Perry and Brockhouse were symbolic relief to homeowners on a short-term basis.
“What I applaud this council for doing in the last couple of budgets is addressing our needs and our challenges in our city on a long term basis,” Nirenberg said. “I think it’s very important that we address the issues of the housing imbalance and lack of affordability for the entire community — not just provide symbolic relief that has no impact on the homeowners pocketbook.”
The budget takes effect Oct. 1.
Joey Palacios can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @joeycules