SAN ANTONIO – Updated Thursday at 10:56 a.m:
City Council unanimously approves $2.5 billion budget, including a $13.75 minimum wage for employees.
City Council members Wednesday received a list of changes to the city’s proposed 2017 budget less than 24 hours before the council is set to vote on whether to approve the fiscal plan.
The most notable change includes increasing the starting salary for civilian city employees from $13 an hour to $13.75 an hour.
That additional cost would consume roughly $1.3 million in the 2017 budget.
COPS Metro Alliance has pushed for the wage increase.
“We believe that our tax money shouldn’t go to hold people in poverty,” said Mike Phillips with COPS Metro. “They should make enough that they don’t have to have a second job.”
“And the reality of it is, we need to ultimately get to $15,” said District 6 City Councilman Ray Lopez, who remarked in the first 2017 budget presentation in August that he would like to see the city create a path toward increasing starting salaries to $15 an hour.
Mayor Ivy Taylor Wednesday said she would like to see future wage increases be based on performance.
“I think that as we continue, it’s very important to have a discussion that links it to performance metrics- that eventually people being paid more would always be tied to their performance,” Taylor said.
The list of budget changes also includes another $1.1 million in 2017 to implement the city's long-range plan, SA Tomorrow.
Part of that money would be used to hire additional employees — an issue for District 9 Councilman Joe Krier.
In response to Krier’s questioning, City Manager Sheryl Sculley said additional funding for SA Tomorrow could total $3.8 million over three years.
“When I voted for San Antonio's long-term plan, I did not understand that I was voting for $4 million to $5 million in new city spending for new city staff to implement the plan,” Krier said.
“I come from a business world where if we have 4,000 employees, we pass that plan, we hand it to the 4,000 employees and say ‘y'all figure out how to start implementing this,’” he added.
Mayor Taylor responded to Krier’s concerns by saying city employees are already assigned to other duties.
“I want to ensure that SA Tomorrow doesn’t just end up a plan on the shelf and that we have the resources necessary in order to bring it to life,” Taylor said.
Taylor, however, had concerns of her own with the proposed budget changes.
One amendment would make Project Quest a line item in the budget, therefore ensuring the workforce development program would receive $1.1 million in city funding during fiscal year 2017.
The city would budget to give Project Quest $1.1 million in 2018, as well.
The majority of the council requested that program be included as a line item in the 2017 budget, but Taylor has reservations.
“It sets a precedent. So when the next organization comes and asks for that, it’s hard to say no,” said Taylor.
Adding that nonprofits often go through changes, Taylor said, “I believe that the city should have the ability each and every year to vet whether or not they should be recipients of tax dollars.”
Allocating $1.1 million to Project Quest in 2017 would have no impact on the budget because that money is already accounted for.
The city budget includes $21 million in funding for various delegate agencies, which includes programs like Project Quest.
The proposed changes to the budget would be funded by an extra $4.5 million not included in the initial budget presentation. That $4.5 million comes from a surplus in revenue from CPS and a federal reimbursement.