SAN ANTONIO - The City of San Antonio's budget for fiscal year 2019 is its largest ever at $2.8 billion. What will also be larger: your bill if you want to keep your 96-gallon trash bin.
KSAT12 was the only television news station present Wednesday for an informal conversation about the budget with City Manager Sheryl Sculley. She formally presents the budget to the City Council Thursday.
The budget consists of a general fund of $1.26 billion, $898 million for restricted funds and $690 million for the capital improvement program. Sculley said the proposed budget does not include an increase in the city's property tax rate. The budget maintains a minimum general fund ending balance of 15 percent and achieves its two-year balanced budget plan.
Sculley said the reason for the 5.8 percent budget increase from Fiscal Year 2018 is that "the city has more residents than it has ever had to serve."
The latest Census Bureau data says more than 1.4 million people live in San Antonio and officials have said that population is expected to grow. That growth will increase the need for services, such as waste pickup, improvements to streets and parks, and other priorities.
Trash bins and recycling
Solid waste fees for those who use the brown 96-gallon container will jump to $29 per month, an increase of $4.32. Fees for the medium and small-sized brown carts will decrease as an incentive to downsize, Sculley said.
The fee adjustment would generate $6 million for the city, to be used to adjust routes for new customers and the construction of a household hazardous waste site. Sculley said the city has a goal of recycling 60 percent of its waste, ultimately saving landfill fees.
"If we raise a generation of recyclers, the problem will take care of itself," Sculley said.
Streets and sidewalks
If you're peeved by potholes and searching for sidewalks, you're not alone.
Those continue to be budget priorities, with $110 million proposed for streets and $19 million for sidewalks.
Using a pavement condition index, or PCI, each city street has been given a numerical grade. The city's goal is to have all roads get a passing score of 70 or above in two years. A full list of street scores was not available at the time this article was published.
Here is how the city plans to allocate funding:
- $35 million: Streets in Council Districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10.
- $11 million: Streets in the oldest areas within Loop 410 and the oldest neighborhoods in Council Districts 8 and 9 that fall outside Loop 410.
- $19 million: Sidewalks that are close to schools and are affected by pedestrian safety and transit access get priority for improvements. The Advanced Transportation District would fund $9 million. The remaining $10 million would come from the 2017 Bond.
- $10 million: VIA will use this money to increase the frequency of its routes to make travel more convenient for bus riders.
- Other projects that will continue under the new budget: $5.8 million for street striping, $1 million for Year 5 of 5 of Pedestrian Safety and $1 million for Vision Zero.
The need for affordable housing in San Antonio has been a concern among city leaders for years. This year, the Mayor's Housing Policy Task Force was formed to assess the existing supply of affordable housing as well as the need. It found 165,000 households are spending at or more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The group set priorities to address the problem, including forming a risk mitigation fund at a cost of $1 million, something Sculley said would "keep people where they are."
The budget for this includes $17.1 million in new funding adding to a total of $25.1 million, which would come from the general fund and grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Here's how that money would be shared:
- $7.75 million in neighborhood improvements and gap financing.
- $7.4 million in housing preservation/repair for houses built prior to 1978.
- $4.25 million for Under 1 Roof, a roof-repair program available to residents in Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
- $3.25 million for homebuyer assistance.
- $1.4 million for creation of a coordinating housing system, including 13 staff members.
The city said some 35,000 people between the ages of 16 and 24 are either not in school or not working. The city's Frank Garrett Community Center will get $345,000 in new financing to establish a youth re-engagement center, bringing together people from seven city departments to address the issue. The city has identified $414,000 in funding for outside agencies to help with case management, counseling, education and employment opportunities.
Police and fire spending make up less than 66 percent of the city's budget. Spending increases here include adding the following:
- Fire: $3.5 million to buy a wellness building in Washington Square, four emergency medical services medic officers and one training division chief; $588,000 for training for command officers and emergency scene management.
- Park police: Eight new officers for additional linear creekways and completed capital parks projects.
- Police: $730,000 for software to improve police customer service and community engagement; $225,000 for leadership development for all police officers.
The city has slowly been increasing entry-level wages, reaching its maximum of $15 an hour, up from $14.25. Sculley said San Antonio is the only Texas city to reach that figure, though she said Austin recommended the raise this week. The cost for that and other pay increases for civilian city employees adds $15.9 million to the budget. Those include:
- 1 percent cost of living allowance.
- 2 percent to 4 percent increase for Step Pay plan.
- Up to 4 percent for professional managers, depending on performance.
- Lump-sum check of $800 for the 1,235 employees at "maximum step."
- No increases to health care premiums.
Uniform police and fire employees will also see an additional $10 million added to their compensation. The proposal includes:
- A 3 percent wage increase for police consistent with their collective bargaining agreement;
- A 3 percent longevity increase for eligible uniform police and fire employees;
- A 2 percent step increase for eligible uniform employees.
Nearly $1 million would be added to the City Council's support staff budget. It includes:
- Funding for seven full-time equivalent positions.
- A 4 percent increase to the salary line item -- equivalent to a 1 percent cost of living allowance and 3 percent performance pay.
- An increase from $400 to $450 for a monthly stipend for health.
Other budget items
- Animal Care Services: The department would get an additional $400,000. It would also add four officers to improve response times to resident calls and one position to target illegal sale of pets online, on roadsides and at outdoor markets.
- Aviation Department: Eight positions will be added for operations and security, but there are no rate increases included in the budget.
- Development Services: Two positions will be added for plan review and inspections, but there will be no fee increases.
- Health Department: The city has a five-year goal of creating a trauma informed community, so it is adding one position for Adverse Childhood Experience, or ACEs, Trauma Informed Care. This person would be responsible for educating the community and departments, as well as developing a strategy for screening ACEs in pediatric patients;
- Libraries: An additional investment of $1.8 million is being added to the library budget. To meet the total book budget of $5.1 million, the city is adding $530,000 to its budget. Several libraries will get a piece of a $760,000 investment for maintenance. The Great Northwest and Semmes libraries will get new furniture at a cost of $343,000, and the city will spend $200,000 to replace library computers.
- Parks: $1 million will go to operations and maintenance of recently completed park projects.
- Stormwater operations: This monthly utility fee will increase approximately 2 percent.
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