Leading SA: City Manager Erik Walsh discusses budget growth, how the public can get involved

Walsh invites the public to attend budget town halls to share their voice!

SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio is expected to grow its budget to $3.7 billion this year, a 9% increase from last year, and there is still time to have your voice heard before the budget gets finalized.

City Manager Erik Walsh joined Leading SA to explain the process and how to get involved.

The council generally in the springtime comes together and develops kind of from their perspective as a group, what our major priorities are that need to be addressed... [but] this year we did something a little bit different. We hired an independent company to come in and do a statistically valid survey of residents to give us an additional layer of input,” Erik Walsh said.

The proposed budget is 300 million dollars larger than the 2023 fiscal year budget.

Walsh shared what exactly the budget is focusing on.

So a lot of it most of that is coming from our construction. So a lot of capital investment. Those are all included with our voter-approved bond program, and those are projects and funding that we already had in place based on debt issuances. So that’s the majority of it. There’s we’re seeing a 6% increase in our general revenue and about a 5% increase in our general expenses for next year,” Erik Walsh said.

One of the big increases comes with the police budget.

We’re proposing that 105 police officer positions. That was the most we’ve ever added in any one year. 100 of those will go into patrol to improve staffing. Primarily to increase our visibility and give officers a little bit of breathing room so that they’re not running from call to call on. Our long-term three-year plan is to add 360. And so this is the first year of that effort. The other five that we’re adding were we’re looking to expand capacity and throughput out of the police academy,” said Walsh.

As far as how the growth will progress, Walsh detailed the cadet numbers and how the demand for those officers is needed.

“Right now the last five years, in a normal basis, we’re graduating about 160 cadets. And we’re hoping to push that up to 235 beginning next year. So, you know, huge investment. It’s one of the primary responsibilities of any municipality is public safety. And we want to make sure that we’ve got the resources out there to continue to address a growing community. I mean, we’re continuing to grow, and we get 2 million 911 calls a year in,” Walsh said.

Another demand the city continues to see is Animal Care Services which saw a 26% increase.

We’re going to have to incrementally increase funding in those areas over the next three years. The three the three big areas they see us through, the proposed budget is increased enforcement, increased funding set aside to work with our rescue partners to keep our live release rate out of our facility high. And then third is beefing up our funding for spay-neuter. You’ve got to be able to do all three at once to really make an impact,” Walsh said.

The City Manager then addressed the growing population of San Antonio, and the budget-making process must include foresight in addressing growth.

You have to plan for both from a financial standpoint, but also from an execution standpoint. The work we’re doing out of the airport and the new expansion, the implementation of the 2022 bond, making sure that we are laying the work out over the next 3 to 5 years. That needs to be done because we can’t do it all in one year, but more importantly, making sure we have the resources and we’re making the smart financial decisions as a city to be able to continue to afford and be thoughtful about how we spend that money. But it is it is the balancing act is doing that from a growing community, but then also maintaining what we have,” Walsh said.

However, the budget is not yet finalized, you can still have your voice heard!

Walsh invited the community to attend budget town halls to voice their opinions.

Beginning next week, over the next two weeks, we’ve got budget town halls in every city district and the available. The dates and times and locations are available there online. Please participate. It’s key,” Walsh said.

For more information, click here.

About the Author

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.

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