San Antonio City Council members will vote on the proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year Thursday.

The $2.3 billion budget keeps property taxes the same and includes approximately $13 million in spending cuts.

It also maintains current public safety staffing level, continues funding for street maintenance, and increases funding for sidewalks and drainage work.

On Wednesday, city council members examined a host of amendments to the budget.

One change would add a $1 per month Parks Environmental Fee to CPS bills.

The fee would generate approximately $6.4 million, which would go into the Parks General Fund Budget.

The revenue would free up money in the city’s General Fund and would allow public libraries to remain open for 56 hours per week instead of the proposed 48 hours per week.

“Keeping libraries open as long as we can is very important in providing effective and relevant library services,” said Library Director Ramiro Salazar. “We're ... cautiously excited. We hope the amendment is approved.”

The $1 fee would also reinstate the 10 Crisis Response Team positions the city was proposing to cut in its original budget.

“There's a tremendous amount of relief to have our teams be reinstated, be made available to our community,” said Peace Initiative Executive Director Patricia Castillo.

Peace Initiative helps train members of the Crisis Response Team -- civilians who accompany patrol officers who respond to domestic violence calls.

“That specialty of having a professional person with a law enforcement person teamed up to respond to these cases is what makes the service unique,” Castillo said.

But some on the city council see the fee as practically a tax, and said the money should be taken from elsewhere in the budget.

“To cut back library hours to feed other pet programs then say, ‘We need a new tax or new fee to take libraries back to normal hours we just cut,’ that's not an acceptable thing,” said District 10 councilman Carlton Soules. “We don't need to do Hemisfair Park. We don't need to do SA 2020, or Cafe Commerce. There's a lot of pet projects that I think can take a back seat to basic services.”

Firefighter’s Association asks for more resources

Another budget amendment explored during the council’s B Session Thursday called for funds to be set aside to purchase a fire engine truck and associated equipment over the next two fiscal years.

“It's definitely not enough because it's too late,” said San Antonio Firefighter’s Association President Christopher Steele. “We know the resources that are needed in a city that’s growing like ours is growing. The more you wait the more it's going to cost later."

The amendment would set aside $389,911 to purchase the fire engine, but Steele said it wouldn’t do enough to reduce the department 7 minute 48 second average response time.

“We have to have more units in this city to keep (firefighters) from having to go outside their district,” Steele said. “If they're not adding enough to keep it to where we have enough (crews) to cover the city, then you end up having everybody run all over the city and that's unacceptable.”

The city council will meet at 9 a.m. at City Hall to vote on the proposed budget.

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