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Bexar County’s annual budget could be in $100-million hole amid COVID-19 pandemic, memo says

Bexar County manager issues a hiring and spending freeze, postpones capital projects

San Antonio (Illustration by Henry Keller)
San Antonio (Illustration by Henry Keller) (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County Manager David Smith sent a memo to all county offices and departments Tuesday calling for a hiring freeze, a county-wide halt on capital projects and a suspension of the county’s normal budget process this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Simply put, I see no likely scenario under which the County will be able to budget for ‘business as usual’ for the upcoming year,” Smith wrote in the memo obtained by KSAT.

Smith wrote that fully funded capital projects will continue, but no projects that are not fully funded will go forward and no projects currently in the design or engineering phase will move to construction at this time.

For now, Smith wrote that he is not recommending any reduction in staff or across-the-board pay cuts. However, he is directing the human resource department and budget offices to present to commissioners court the costs and benefits of an early retirement option for some employees.

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Smith said he is also putting a halt on discretionary spending and economic development incentives.

The county manager cited figures presented by City of San Antonio staff to city council last month estimating a $50 to $80 million loss in budgeted revenue to the city’s general fund.

Smith said the county budget team estimates the potential impact to Bexar County’s general fund budget could be $70 to $100 million -- a revenue loss of 14% to 20% -- and it could be worse than that if the pandemic continues.

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Smith said the actions are similar to ones Bexar County took in 2008 and 2009.

“The situation we currently face is not unlike the Great Recession of 2008, but the impact has been more rapid and it is expected to be far worse,” Smith wrote in the memo.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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