City officials propose transportation user fee to help fund road projects

In-depth study needs to be performed before further recommendations

SAN ANTONIO – This week, during a routine budget workshop, representatives of the city manager’s office suggested a transportation user fee to provide additional revenue to repair and maintain San Antonio streets and sidewalks.

“It would be residences and businesses that use the transportation system," said Mike Frisbie, director of the Capital Improvements Management Services Department. “They would be part of paying that fee.”

Frisbie said multiple times during a brief interview that the suggestion was very preliminary and an in-depth study was needed before further recommendations.

“It's the first time we've seen it, so it needs to be thoroughly vetted,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “My conversation with staff and council is if we're going to go down the road of discussing this kind of fee, it needs to be contained in a discussion about going only to transportation.”

“My hope is as we're looking at the impact of the cost to the city, that we're also looking at the individual costs to certain residents,” District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino said. “To some people, an added fee may be a level of discomfort but to others, it means quite a bit more.”

Transportation user fees, or TUF, are not new. Austin has had one for 25 years and several Oregon cities have used them dating back to the mid-1980s. Fees in Austin range from $8.76 to $11.52 depending on residence types, and there’s a different tier structure for businesses.

Taylor, about 40 miles northeast of Austin, started a TUF last year at a rate of $8 a month per residence. Using 2010 census data, that rate would bring in nearly $46 million in San Antonio without accounting for business fees.

Residents have not voted on a single TUF, with city councils or other leaders approving them through a vote. In 2015, the City Council approved rate increases on SAWS bills over a five-year period.

“We don't want to put people who have trouble as it is paying their bills to see another rate increase,” said Trevino.

Frisbie said the city will look at TUFs in other municipalities and present those findings to council in the next few weeks. If the council approves a fee, it could take effect for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

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