City Council passes $3.7B budget, including new fund that could help cover travel to out-of-state abortion clinics

More police officers, homeless camp cleanups, ACS budget boost also in the final FY 2024 budget

San Antonio – San Antonio’s largest-ever budget will include hiring a record number of police officers, a big bump in the Animal Care Services budget, and more cleanups of homeless encampments.

But it was a new fund that could end up subsidizing travel costs for out-of-state abortions that dominated much of the budget discussions.

The city council passed the $3.7 billion spending plan for the 2024 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 in a 10-0-1 vote Thursday morning — one of several required votes to fully pass the budget.

The council also slightly lowered the property tax rate from 54.161 cents per $100 of valuation to 54.159 cents. It had previously maxed out the homestead exemption at 20% for the city portion of homeowners’ tax bills.

Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) voted against portions of the budget dealing with the tax rate. He later told KSAT it was because of the statutory language involved in the vote, not the tax rate itself.

Councilman Marc Whyte (D10) voted against another portion related to city fees because it included raising solid waste fees.


Whyte also abstained from the primary budget vote as a form of protest over the inclusion of the so-called “Reproductive Justice Fund.”

“It is clear that this money is designed to go to fund abortion access,” said Whyte, who opposes abortion.

The budget vote set $500,000 aside for such a fund but did not establish the scope of what services it would cover. City Manager Erik Walsh said council members will discuss those parameters this fall, though he did not know exactly when.

But while a Reproductive Justice Fund could be used for services as contraceptives or reproductive health education, abortion rights advocates and some council members have also said it could also help cover travel costs for women seeking legal abortions outside of Texas.

“We need to discuss the opportunities we have to make an impact legally. As far as we can go, I want to go there, of course, within the confines of state law,” said Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2).

City Attorney Andy Segovia has said the legal risk the city faces would depend on what services they cover, though he said supporting out-of-state travel would not be a criminal offense.

Whyte made two unsuccessful motions during the budget discussions: to exclude abortion access as a possible use of the fund, and to separate it from the rest of the budget.

Councilman John Courage (D9) supported Whyte on the first idea, which failed 2-9. Though Courage had been one of the council members who requested the fund be added to the budget, he said he recognized there were “limitations to what municipal governments can and cannot do” and was worried about what kind of precedent the city would be setting.

Pelaez backed Whyte on the attempt to remove the item from the budget, saying he wanted the freshman councilman to be able to vote on a budget of which he otherwise seemed to approve. Citing his own history trying to separate out part of a budget, McKee-Rodriguez abstained from that vote, which failed 2-8-1.

Councilwoman Teri Castillo (D5), one of the primary supporters of the fund, has said helping organizations that offer travel assistance would “ideally” be part of the fund’s purpose and has painted it as a way to “put money where our mouth was” on the previous council’s 2022 resolution expressing support for abortion access.


The San Antonio Police Department will add 117 police officers - the single largest increase to the department since at least the start of the millennium.

The vast majority, 100, will be patrol officers as part of a multi-year plan to put 360 more officers onto the streets so officers have more time for “proactive” policing. Another five of the positions would be instructors at the SAPD academy, which is scheduled to have an extra class of cadets.

The final 12 positions were added as a budget amendment to expand the San Antonio Community Outreach and Resiliency Effort (SA CORE) program.

The city council has added 12 other positions to the department in various actions over the course of the current 2023 fiscal year. So the department will have a total of 129 more positions compared to the FY 2023 adopted budget.


City council members were strongly in favor of expanding the city’s mental health response during the budget talks, especially after the June 23 death of Melissa Perez at the hands of SAPD officers, as she was presumed to be experiencing a mental health episode.

One of the final tweaks to the budget was to expand the SA CORE program even further than expected, so it would not only be citywide but also around-the-clock.

The single-team pilot program of an SAPD officer, a San Antonio Fire Department paramedic, and a mental health clinician proved popular with city staff and council members. The team responded to non-aggressive mental health-related calls for service in the downtown area, with a focus on resolving any issues at the scene instead of bringing someone away in handcuffs.

The city council had already approved expanding to three teams that could cover the entire city between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. starting in January. But they also asked to add more money into the budget to allow for around-the-clock coverage starting in the summer of 2024.


Homeless outreach and tackling encampments were a top priority for residents who answered the city’s budget survey.

City staff says there are now more places to house people, and the city is looking to open another low-barrier shelter. And, for the first time, it has set a goal of getting 400 people off the street.

The budget also has an additional $200,000 for rental and utility assistance to help prevent more people from losing their homes.

On the other hand, the proposed budget has money for 700 homeless camp cleanups, up from 500 this year, which is a controversial tactic for some.

Walsh said the city would commit to performing an assessment of a reported camp, doing outreach to the people there, and cleaning it up within two weeks of being called about it. The cleanup schedule will be publicly available, he said.


After the development of a new strategic plan and high-profile issues with dangerous dogs, including a deadly mauling of an elderly man on the West Side, the city is throwing its Animal Care Services department a big bone.

The $28.5 million slated for ACS is a 33% increase over the previous year’s budget -- not taking into account a mid-year budget adjustment. It includes money for additional spay and neuter locations on the East and West sides and 29 new positions.

Seven of the positions are specifically to help answer 311 calls for critical issues like aggressive dogs, neglect, and cruelty. City staff say ACS currently has only enough staff to respond to about 44% of those calls, but they had hoped to get to 100% by adding staff over three years, with a 64% response rate as the goal for FY 2024.

Saying that was still too little, Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2) pushed to add all the necessary positions into the upcoming budget. However, city staff said there would be various hiring and logistical hurdles to doing it that quickly.

Instead, the city will add the additional positions to the FY 2025 budget, with the goal of having those new officers start in the summer of 2025.

Seven other positions will be for ACS officers tasked with responding to all of the 3,500 bite reports the city receives and following up on compliance issues for dangerous dogs.


Following a slew of shootings of San Antonio Police officers, the city will spend $210,000 next year to replace the windshields and side glass on 30 vehicles for specialty units like SWAT and the Street Crimes unit.

In subsequent years, the city will include the ballistic glass in the approximately 200 patrol vehicles it replaces annually.


  • $500,000 for a new program to grade city sidewalks for future prioritization
  • $1 million fund to cover minor maintenance needs for public housing residents
  • $1.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to address construction mitigation
  • 3-year plan to add shades to 61 playgrounds
  • 700 homeless camp cleanups, instead of 500 this year
  • Money to lease a second, low-barrier homeless shelter
  • A plan to fend off another CPS Energy rate hike by accepting a smaller cut of the utility’s revenues was delayed by the councilwoman who had proposed it

**Editor’s Note**: A previous version of this article misstated the number of new police positions after counting only the 105 officers included in the proposed budget. The article has been updated to include an additional 12 positions that were added through a budget amendment.

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.