SAN ANTONIO – Tuesday night was one of celebration for San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who saw voters overwhelmingly approve a sales tax to pay for his SA: Ready to Work program.
As of a mid-day tally of votes on Wednesday, Proposition B had passed with 76.9% approval from San Antonio voters. The proposition reallocates an existing 1/8 cent sales toward a workforce development program that Nirenberg thinks could help the city recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and also help tens of thousands of San Antonio families be better off than they were.
“This is an investment in our people. This is an investment in our future,” the mayor said Tuesday night following the initial early voting reports.
The broad strokes of the plan are set -- help 40,000 San Antonio workers over four years get workforce training or complete their two- or four-year degree, with an eye toward in-demand industries. However, the mayor acknowledged there are still more details to sort out before the program begins in the fall of 2021.
Nirenberg said the council would have a briefing session on Dec. 2 to lay out the implementation plan, including the board structure to govern the program under the city council’s direction.
“We will also work out over the next intervening months the actual work plan -- the implementation plan -- that will be presented and finalized and approved in the spring of ’21. That will include such things as the balance of certificate slots versus degree slots and how the industries are balanced,” Nirenberg said.
The workforce program is meant to take over around the time an existing workforce training program, under the city’s COVID-19 Recovery and Resiliency Plan, is finishing up.
The money could start rolling in before then, though -- sometime in the spring or summer of 2021. That’s when the current use for the 1/8 sales tax -- funding aquifer protection and the creation of the linear creekway parks -- is expected to hit the $180 million cap voters had set for it and expire.
This new use for the tax will also have a finite shelf-life. The city will collect the tax through the end of 2025 before it is diverted to transportation funding, which San Antonio voters also approved on Tuesday.
Nirenberg said the San Antonio’s major educational institutions -- Texas A&M, UTSA, and the Alamo Colleges District -- will be partners in the new program “as well as so many employers who offer training programs on the job, as well as even the trades themselves that have apprenticeship programs.”