City manager presents 2015 budget to SA City Council

$2.4 billion to run city; number expected to change

By Cory Smith - VJ, Reporter , Diana Winters - Producer

SAN ANTONIO - City Manager Sheryl Sculley made her annual budget presentation to the San Antonio City Council Thursday and outlined the city's priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

"(The budget) is balanced. It does represent a slight increase over last year's budget," said Sculley.

The $2.4 billion package increases the city's general fund to $1.05 billion, a 5.9-percent increase from fiscal year 2014

Sculley attributed part of the increase to a rise in property and sales tax revenues.

The proposal includes a $15 million increase for street maintenance and a $7 million increase for drainage improvements.

"Residents have requested that they want to see more street maintenance. It's their number one issue," she said. "Those numbers are in addition to the $52 million we spend today on street maintenance activities for our infrastructure management programs."

Sculley is proposing a nearly $1 million increase in funding for parks and recreation and approximately $1.1 million for library services. The proposal does not, however, include a property tax increase nor any layoffs of civilian or uniformed city employees.

Sculley is also recommending a $1 fee increase for single family residential solid waste collection, a move that will impact approximately 300,000 people and generate nearly $4 million in revenue.

Nearly two-thirds of the general fund would go to public safety, Sculley said. She proposed $691 million be set aside to run San Antonio's police and fire departments. That amount is the same as the 2014 budget, but there is one major change.

"The alternative we have presented to the police union was that we meet midway, that we negotiate the details of a healthcare plan that is at about the $10,000 level," she said.

The change would require police officers and firefighters to begin paying premiums.

The proposed change to the city's contribution to uniformed healthcare is more than the $7,000 the city currently pays per civilian employee. But it's less than the nearly $13,000 the city pays per uniformed officer.

Though the police union and city negotiators are hoping to reach a deal before the current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 30, Sculley said the city has the legal authority to change the healthcare plan.

"The master contract which is a part of the collective bargaining agreement … gives the City Council the authority to adjust healthcare benefits for union employees with the adoption of the annual budget," She said.

Police union President Michael Helle disagreed.

"That's a legal argument that we feel is wrong," said Helle. "If we need to settle this issue in court, we're prepared to do so."

The president of the firefighters union, Chris Steele, was shocked by Sculley's recommendation.

"It's patently illegal," Steele said. "Both parties have a written agreement, and so for her to say, 'I'm going to change that,' is just more of what we're seeing - bullying tactics, no concern for the law, and no concern for the citizens."

Sculley's proposal includes a 2 percent to 3 percent STEP increase and/or a 3 percent tenure-based longevity pay increase for eligible uniformed personnel.

Several public input sessions will be held before the city council votes on a final budget later this month. For more information, click here.

During Thursday's session, councilmembers also took action on the VIA streetcar project, voting 8-2 to pull the city's $32 million in funding for the project. Click here to read more about City Council's decision.

Click here to read more about the 2015 budget.

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