Heated discussions over possible city budget reallocations

Money for domestic abuse services may go to workforce programs

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A battle over possible city budget changes, is getting heated. In a meeting Wednesday, it was revealed that $1.3 million may be moved away from services for domestic violence and go to workforce and education programs. It's a move Mayor Ivy Taylor said she supported Wednesday. Two day later, one councilman explained why he thinks the move is a huge mistake.

About six months ago, the city council was given a survey about how they would allocate funding for certain nonprofit services. A meeting this week revealed the results, which disappointed several council members, including District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg.

"If it stands we will be removing over $1 million from desperately needed community safety net programs, those that deal with family violence issues, domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect," Nirenberg said.

That $1.3 million would instead be used for workforce programs and youth services. 

"We have to work on long term solutions for issues like generational poverty and I fully support other needed programs, but not at the expense of those services that are dealing with some of the worst problems in San Antonio today," Nirenberg said.

That opinion was strongly echoed Friday by Bexar County Battered Women's Shelter CEO Marta Pelaez.

"Cutting funding that is already inadequate. It's unthinkable. It's irresponsible," Pelaez said.

San Antonio is the number two city in Texas with the highest rate of domestic violence, only behind Houston. It tops charts when it comes to child abuse, child neglect and child deaths as well.

On average there are about 158 women and children staying at the Bexar County Battered Women and Children's Shelter every single day. All the funding the shelter gets, goes to making sure they're taken care of. 

"Comprehensive services that take these families from a place of unthinkable horror and abuse to self-sufficiency," Pelaez said.

The mayor said she wants to tackle poverty through workforce and education programs, supporting the new reallocation idea.

"We keep making the same investment year after year, but what do we get? More need. To me that says we should rethink how we invest," Taylor said at Wednesday's meeting.

Pelaez said she was shocked by the statement. 

"I will give them the benefit of the doubt. I will believe that they will get themselves informed educated as to what the reality of domestic violence is in this community, how many people the Battered Women and Children's Shelter serve, how many people would be without services if funding is cut. One person that dies is one person too many," Pelaez said.

Taylor sent KSAT this statement: 

No action has been taken on next year’s budget. At this point we are only discussing several budgeting scenarios so the staff can prepare a recommendation, keeping in mind the importance of our nonprofit organizations that provide necessary resources. I sincerely hope that Councilman Nirenberg can gain a better understanding of the budgeting process as his assumptions are causing premature concerns in the community, in particular with the agencies he mentioned. I urge him to work with and communicate directly with his council colleagues and staff to arrive at solutions to meet critical needs instead of issuing misleading and inaccurate statements to the press.

The council's budget is not set until September.

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.