Bexar Commissioners address gun violence, approve property tax relief, and spend big on public health
Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a package of measures to combat local gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting, including $21 million in funding for school based mental health services.
The funding is coming from federal COVID-19 relief dollars under the American Recovery Plan Act.
Commissioner Justin Rodriguez said the commissioners want to take some action since the state hasn't addressed gun violence.
He said school-based mental health services could help a troubled youth early and prevent future school shootings.
"There is often a common theme or thread with the respect to the actors in those kind of events and it ties back often to some kind of early childhood trauma," he said.
Commissioners approved nearly $15 million to expand other mental health services, including more mental treatment beds and a phone line on how to get help for a family member showing signs of mental illness.
Commissioners also okayed $1 million for a gun safety public outreach campaign and $100,000 for free gun lock distribution.
In other action, commissioners approved two measures to provide property tax relief as property appraisals skyrocket
Both will be effective for the next tax season.
One proposed by Commissioner Marialyn Barnard boosts the homestead property tax exemption to 20%, the most allowed under state law.
She said the tax break is not just for seniors.
"This affects every family who owns a home and that includes families with children and as we know that demographic is a higher level of poverty and a higher level of low income," Barnard said.
She said the owner of a $300,000 home would see a savings of $174.
The court also passed Commissioner Tommy Calvert's proposal to boost the county hospital tax exemption for those 65 and older from $10,000 to $30,000.
Also on Tuesday's agenda was big spending to meet future public health needs, establishing a $60 million budget for various public health projects, including
the planned Bexar County Department of Preventative Health and Environmental Services headquarters at Texas A&M San Antonio and for a collaboration between UT Health and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
UT Health and UTSA want to open a School of Public Health and offer a Master of Public Health degree in 2024.
Commissioners also approved $3.5 million for Texas BioMedical Research Institute for infrastructure improvements and $1.5 million to assist commercial healthcare provider Village MD with the opening of 3,000 square foot primary care facilities in five underserved neighborhoods. Each clinic is expected to create a dozen full-time jobs that pay $18 to $25 an hour plus full-time benefits.
The local public health funding all comes from federal COVID-19 relief dollars under
the American Recovery Plan Act.
In final action of the day, commissioners:
- Directed County Manager David Smith to identify the source for $2 million for a development agreement with Alamo Area Mutual Housing for 138 affordable apartments at Houston and Frio, including the conversion of an historic building as part of the complex. The apartments will be marketed to residents earning 60 and 30% percent of the area median income.
- Awarded a contract for $8.2 million in improvements to Crestway Road, between Kitty Hawk and Gibbs Sprawl Roads, in Precinct 4. The road will be widened into four lanes and include biking and walking amenities. The road is expected to be completed about a year after construction begins.