Council, community start digging into $3.7B proposed San Antonio budget

Town hall presentations and council work session underway; vote on final budget expected Sep. 14

SAN ANTONIO – With about a month until the San Antonio City Council is slated to pass a final version of next year’s budget, council members and residents alike are beginning to sift through the record $3.7 billion proposed version.

City Manager Erik Walsh unveiled the proposal for the 2024 fiscal year, which runs from October through September 2024, to the San Antonio City Council on Thursday, Aug. 10. It includes 105 new police officers, a 26% bump in funding for Animal Care Services, and nearly $292 million in capital projects to improve the airport system.

READ MORE: More police, ACS officers, homeless camp cleanups in proposed $3.7 billion San Antonio budget

On Monday, city staff kicked off a series of budget town halls with a pair of meetings on the South and Northwest sides. A panel of city staff members and District 3 councilwoman Phyllis Viagran presented highlights of the budget proposal at the meeting at Mission Branch Library.

They also fielded questions from the audience about some of the usual concerns, such as crime issues, ACS funding, the city’s plans for homeless encampments, and speed bumps.

“We’ve got to be part of the table,” Theresa Ybanez, a former president of the Mission San José Neighborhood Association who was at the meeting, told KSAT, “because if you’re not at the table, you’ll be their dinner.”

The council came to its own table in City Hall Tuesday to begin the work sessions drilling into individual sections of the budget. First up was on Public Works, debt management, the city’s capital program, and the airport.

The entire proposed budget is $311 million over the current year, in large part due to more spending on capital projects, especially at the airport.

The airport system, which includes both San Antonio International Airport and Stinson Municipal Airport, expects to tackle $291.8 million worth of improvements compared to $84 million in the current year.

The money will help pay for the development of a new terminal and other projects in the airport’s expansive development plan.

Council members were excited to hear things were taking off.

“I’m glad to see that there’s been no sliding of the projections timelines for the terminal development program. It’s exciting,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “Everybody put it on your calendar, March 2028. We’re all going to be walking in Terminal Alpha, or whatever we’ll call it at that point.”

Unlike other city services like police, fire or parks, the operations at the San Antonio International Airport and Stinson Municipal Airport do not rely on property or sales tax dollars. Instead, they are funded almost entirely by fees and revenue generated at the airport like gate fees, baggage fees, parking, and concessions.

Similarly, the system’s capital projects are tied to airport revenue as well. So, although the airport system does not yet have a plan for permanent funding of $157 million of the money, it plans to borrow money in the short-term until it comes up with a long-term solution. Director of Airports Jesus Saen Jr. said it will not eat into other department budgets.

“Unless you use the airport, you don’t pay for the airport,” Saenz said.

“We’ll issue the the interim financing, and we will continue to pay — whether it’s passenger facility charges or additional revenue that we receive — to pay for that interim financing debt.”

The city council is expected to vote on a final version of the city budget on Sep. 14.

LEARN MORE

The full budget proposal is available on the city’s website, as is information on various budget hearings.

City staff will host a series of town hall meetings on the following dates:

  • Monday, August 14, 6:30 p.m. - Mission Branch Library – 3134 Roosevelt Ave, 78214
  • Monday, August 14, 6:30 p.m. - Alicia Treviño Lopez Senior Center – 8353 Culebra Rd., 78251
  • Tuesday, August 15, 6:30 p.m. - Northeast Senior Center – 4135 Thousand Oaks Dr., 78217
  • Wednesday, August 16, 6:30 p.m. - San Antonio College Candler Gym – 1819 N Main Ave, 78212
  • Wednesday, August 16, 6:30 p.m. - Phil Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center – 8400 NW Military Hwy, 78231
  • Thursday, August 17, 6:30 p.m. - Doris Griffin Senior Center – 6157 Northwest Loop 410, #410, 78238
  • Saturday, August 19, 10 a.m. -Miller’s Pond Community Center – 6175 Old Pearsall Rd., 78242
  • Tuesday, August 22, 6:30 p.m. - Normoyle Community Center – 700 Culberson Ave., 78225
  • Thursday, August 24, 6:30 p.m. - Second Baptist Church Community Center (Gym) - 3310 E. Commerce St., 78220

There will also be two public hearings on the budget and tax rate. You can sign up to speak at SASpeakUp.com:

  • Wednesday, August 30, 5 p.m. - San Antonio City Council Chambers, 114 W. Commerce Street
  • Thursday, September 7, 9 a.m. - San Antonio City Council Chambers, 114 W. Commerce Street

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Alexis Montalbo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.