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Public Health

Bexar County Commissioners approve funding for UH Public Health Division, Homestead Property Exemption

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Ryan Loyd
/
Texas Public Radio
Bexar County Courthouse

Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday approved $60 million in funding, and established a board for the new Public Health Division of University Health.

The $60 million in funding will come from federal COVID-19 relief dollars. County Judge Nelson Wolff said the public health division will complement and not duplicate the work of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

He said the county's new Public Health Division will make sure healthcare is equitable everywhere in Bexar County.

Wolff said he learned during the pandemic that hospital systems should be at the forefront of planning and delivery of public health services.

"You need to remember that hospitals were at the back of the system. Public health determined the success or failure of how many people would enter that hospital. They have no really say at all about how public healthcare should come about. And this puts them at the frontline now, where they'll be able to get out front," Wolff said.

The new public health division will be headquartered near Texas A&M-San Antonio.

In other action, commissioners approved a $5,000 homestead exemption for local property owners. The vote has more to do with the empathy the court has for property taxpayers because the move will not result in actual savings.

Commissioner Marialyn Barnard brought the homestead property exemption proposal before commissioners after reporting the Texas Association of Appraisal Districts announced property appraisals shot up anywhere from 10 to 50% across the state last year.

"Bexar County has not had this, but I think this is a step toward real affordable housing for our homeowners and I would like to make a motion that Bexar County institute a $5,000 homestead exemption for all qualifying homesteads," she said just before the measure passed.

Residents can apply for the homestead exemption for the next property tax cycle. The county budget office reports the amount of savings for property taxpayers, however, is expected to be eaten up by another year of higher property appraisals in 2022.

Commissioners also directed the civil division of the district attorney's office on Tuesday to present recommendations to mitigate the number of mail-in ballots rejected before the November general election. The commissioners want to reduce the number of rejections through a public awareness campaign consistent with the Texas Elections code.

County Judge Nelson Wolff reports the two major parties reported a high number of mail-in ballot applications before the March primaries.

"If I remember right, 24% of the Democratic ballots were rejected, but 20% of the Republican ballots were rejected," he said.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said after voters started putting both their driver's license and social security numbers on mail-in ballot
applications, the rejection rate improved greatly.

Wolff expressed dismay with Senate Bill 1, saying its passage harmed the voting rights of the most vulnerable, including seniors, which at age 81 he counts himself a member of.

In other action, Commissioners:

  • Approved a proposal to apply $1.5 million from the county lawsuit settlement fund from opioid-makers towards the building of the Women's Wellness Campus, Casa Mia Program to expand substance treatment services for women.
  • Approved a proclamation to honor Fiesta and Fiesta royalty.  The city's biggest celebration of the year runs from March 31 through April 10.  It pumps $340 million into the local economy and is the primary fundraising event for dozens of local charities.  This year's theme is "Resilience," and is showcased in the official Fiesta poster and medals for 2022.  This is the first year Fiesta is back with a full slate following two years of the pandemic.
  • Honored deputies of the sheriff's department West Patrol for busting a large vehicle burglary ring.  Sheriff Javier Salazar told commissioners the deputies arrested 10 suspected members of the ring thanks to their hard work and help from a neighborhood video surveillance camera. The sheriff said the suspects would invade a neighborhood, working block by block, car by car, looking for items to steal or to drive off in vehicles with keys left inside. He said the suspects would often walk armed down the middle of streets. He said a suspect fired at deputies during one encounter, but no one was wounded.
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