Questions raised over proposed Pre-K tax plan

1/8 cent raise could result in $30M per year

Author: Myra Arthur, Reporter, Anchor, marthur@ksat.com
Published On: Aug 09 2012 01:27:34 PM CDT   Updated On: Aug 08 2012 12:37:59 PM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

Just two days before the City Council is set to vote on the issue, there is new opposition to Mayor Julian Castro’s Brainpower Initiatve.

It calls for a tax increase by one-eighth of a cent to fund Pre-K programs which could benefit roughly 20,000 young children. The tax would amount to about $30 million a year.

In a letter sent to the mayor, Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff and State Representative Lyle Larson argue that San Antonians would need to vote to change the city charter to allow for the tax.

“Before you go out and offer a service, I think you should ask permission,” said Wolff. “However, I still question the need and validity to do it at all.”

But the city disputes that claim.

A letter from the City Attorney’s office says the city has “not only the power, but the duty” to provide a program that would benefit the community and that changing the charter is unnecessary because it has the authority “to hold an election for approval of a tax… for early childhood education programs.”

Wolff and Larson also claim the tax is redundant since San Antonio's 19 school districts already spend $3 billion dollars a year on education, including Pre-K programs.

“Why don’t we fix the system that's currently broke, instead of creating a whole other one?" asked Wolff.

Wolff's father, County Judge Nelson Wolff, supports the mayor's Pre-K tax, arguing that it would benefit an untapped group.

"There are several thousand kids that we're not reaching because the funding is not there for them to be able to go,” said Judge Wolff.

The tax would mean you pay roughly an extra $7.81 a year.

The city council votes on Thursday to decide whether you the issue goes on the ballot in November.