SAN ANTONIO – City Council members had their first look at a $2.5 billion budget proposal for the 2016 fiscal year Thursday morning.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley presented the budget proposal, saying it includes City Council priorities as well as public input. Mayor Ivy Taylor called the plan, which is 4.3 percent larger than last year's budget, a "very solid proposal."
The proposal keeps public safety budgets to less than 66 percent of the general fund budget and includes 172 net new positions, money to buy 1,534 more body cameras and more money for infrastructure -- $23 million more for street maintenance, $10 million more for sidewalks, and $12 million for new drainage improvements
"One of the things we heard from the public, and we hear it over and over again is that the public wants more street maintenance," Sculley said.
Another highlight was making $13 an hour the entry wage for city employees, which some council members praised.
The budget also reduces the city portion of residents' property taxes by about three-quarters of a center per $100 of home value. However, the spike in home values this spring means the city will still be getting more money from property taxes.
"The increased values help address the needs of a growing city, but bringing the tax rate down hopefully provides some relief at the same time," said city spokesman Jeff Coyle.
Looming over the whole budget are the still unsettled contracts with the police and fire unions.
Public safety budgets account for nearly 66 percent of the general fund, but the budgets are based on the city's offer to the police union in March. They're not based on actual contracts.
If an agreement isn't reached, though, the City Council could have to fill a $7 million hole as the evergreen clause of the current contracts continues.
"We'll have to cut city services to accommodate their expensive health care benefits," Sculley said.
How they'll do that isn't entirely clear. District 9 Councilman Joe Krier said the city needs a plan in case it does happen.
"Last year, we cut money from streets and drainage," he said. "Well, streets and drainage is everybody's No. 1 priority. So we need to have some choices other than that if that happens."