SAN ANTONIO - How to spend $2.8 billion might sound like a lottery fantasy to most, but it was a hefty challenge for the San Antonio city leaders tasked with turning a long list of proposed projects into budget realities.
The spending dreams started back in April with a series of meetings and input from the city's SASpeakUp campaign which helped to identify needs across all parts of San Antonio. From there, officials looked at each city department to determine what to add or remove from their budgets. While many were enjoying summer vacations, the budget for fiscal year 2019 was taking shape.
The accounting for the $2.8 billion is in there and if numbers are your thing, you will love every digit.
We've already reported on some of the highlights, but there's a lot more to the proposed budget.
Before we get started, the city would like you to know a few things about the $1.26 billion general fund:
- The city's property tax rate stays at 55.827 cents per $100 valuation.
- Public safety spending stays below 66 percent (it's actually 63 percent in FY2019).
- The fund's ending balance stays at the minimum of 15 percent.
- The budget is balanced for two years.
Where are you going?
If you're driving, you may soon run into a few more construction zones -- well, at $110 million, probably a LOT of orange barrels, barricades and detour signs.
It's the top ticket item on the proposed budget.
Streets have been graded based on their deterioration (age, utility cuts, stormwater drainage, underlying soil conditions, extreme temperatures, overloading from heavy buses or trucks), so those really bad streets are probably on the list (we've asked for that and will share it with you as soon as we get it).
Did you know the city has 5,000 miles of sidewalks? Did you know the city has 1,900 miles of sidewalk gaps?
The city has set aside $19 million to smooth the path (and build a few along the way). If you're tripping over crumbling walks or wishing for a paved route, you may be in luck: The priorities here are for areas near schools, transit routes and places where safety is an issue.
Pedestrian safety gets $3 million, to be divvied up equally like this:
- Near schools: Maintenance for 205 existing flashers, installation of 8 new flashing beacons, upgrades for 210 school zone signs and markings for 800 school zone crosswalks
- Vision Zero: This plan will continue its education and outreach efforts aimed at getting pedestrians to cross roadways safely. It would also include a minimum of five engineering evaluations which could include some construction projects if improvements are identified.
- Traffic calming devices: These would be used in neighborhoods to slow drivers.
VIA riders who travel on nine of the city's major corridors should spend less time waiting for a bus. The city has $10 million to specifically improve the frequency of nine VIA routes.
Those center-street stripes will get a fresh coat of paint for a price: $5.8 million. Some new traffic signals, upgrades to existing signals and bike facilities will be added for $2.8 million.
If you want to read up on Stormwater Infrastructure and Operations, click here and scroll to page 32.
Getting around San Antonio at just about any time probably means a lot of stop and go. That's where the Advanced Transportation District comes in. ATD is specifically tasked with increasing mobility, reducing traffic congestion and making getting to and from neighborhoods easier. Their budget is $21.6 million, which includes a communications network for traffic signals, installing wheelchair ramps and bike lanes.
What does your rent cost?
It's been a topic of discussion at City Hall for years, but in 2018 the Mayor's Housing Policy Task Force was formed with the goal of having housing and building professionals work to find ways to make housing affordable. They identified six priorities (and new funding):
- Funding for housing: A total of $25.1 million to tackle Task Force recommendations.
- Coordinating housing system: Ten new positions at a cost of $1.45 million would be created to streamline housing programs, including those in some of the city's partner agencies.
- Under 1 Roof: This $4.25 million program replaces worn roofs city-wide with energy-efficient white roofs. If you're interested, click here for an application.
- Housing preservation repair: Low- to moderate-income residents would be eligible for some of the $7.43 million set aside to make some repairs (weatherization, removal of lead-based paint).
- Homebuyer assistance: If you are a first-time homebuyer, you'll want to see this item make it into the budget. With $3.25 million in the program, those who are eligible would be able to get into a home at zero percent interest (and a few other helpful perks). You can read those details on page 37 of this link.
- Risk mitigation: This $1 million program would help residents in an emergency situation to find another place to live.
- Neighborhood improvements and gap financing: New construction and affordable homes in need of some fixer-upping in low-income housing would be eligible for a piece of this $7.75 million program.
- Consolidation of housing related services: This would merge the operations of the Office of EastPoint and the Department of Human Services. Together, these 11 people would coordinate housing and neighborhood initiatives.
Getting quicker help in an emergency
When you need help -- whether it's police, fire or medical -- you want it fast. How does the city plan to make that happen? By adding a few programs to the departments' budgets (which add up to more than $794 million).
HELP WANTED: The San Antonio Police Department is looking for new recruits. They'd get $248,000 to boost recruiting efforts -- which would include two civilians and two detectives to help get qualified applicants into the training academy. Speaking of, they plan to have four academy classes in the next year.
COMMUNICATING JUST LIKE US: A $730,000 customer service program would allow police to keep people updated on their complaints by text and email. Police would also be able to communicate with residents on specific neighborhood issues, follow up on calls for service and even conduct customer service surveys.
BE BETTER LEADERS: Police supervisors would get leadership training under a $225,000 proposal. Some officers would even be trained to share those skills with law enforcement officers from other agencies.
WATCHING OVER US AT BIG EVENTS: Fiesta-goers know how hard it can be to get through a crowd for a turkey leg, so imagine how hard it can be for police to spot trouble right away! That's where they hope two mobile surveillance units (at a cost of $170,000) would come in handy.
PARK SAFETY: Park Police would get eight new officers and necessary supplies to patrol parks and creekways. The price tag for that: $576,000. Here are some fun facts for park-lovers: the city plans to add 108 park acres, 151 amenities and a total of 1.3 miles of trail to various parks and trails throughout the city.
NEW FIRE SUPERVISOR: With nearly 1,100 fire fighters on the streets, the San Antonio Fire Department wants to create a new position called a training division chief. For $177,000 the new chief would be in charge of overseeing training for the division -- about 15,000 hours worth!
BLUE CARD TRAINING: This is pretty specific and technical, but the department says it's very necessary. $588,000 would go towards this command training and certification system to be used for common everyday strategic and tactical emergency operations.
NEW MEDIC OFFICER UNIT: Four new medic officers positions would be created (price tag: $411,000). SAFD hasn't added a full-time unit since 1998, but the work is pretty specific. They inspect all EMS units weekly, distribute medications considered "controlled substances," and are on-scene incident commanders.
GETTING PHYSICAL: SAFD has been leasing the Washington Place facility to use for wellness work, now it wants to make it officially theirs. At a cost of $3.5 million, the department would also move its staff psychologist and Fire Prevention Division to the property.
What else the city wants to do for you
If you're looking for a job, the city wants to make sure you get a solid one locked down. They're considering $2.25 million for city-wide incentives to create and retain jobs. If you want to create your own opportunity, the LiftFund may help. The city wants to up to $250,000 for the LiftFund Loan Interest Buy Down Program to provide reduced interest loans at zero percent for qualifying local small, minority, or women owned businesses (S/M/WBEs) in targeted areas.
Your waste isn't cheap! With a budget of $127 million, the Solid Waste Operating and Maintenance Fund has a lot of cleaning up to do. Its budget priorities include:
- Getting the city to a 60 percent recycling rate by 2025 (which is not that far off). They also want to get residents in multi-family homes on board and get more businesses in the recycling game.
- We've told you about those rate changes for the brown trash bins (including the big hike for the largest bin). The city expects quite a few people will want to downsize -- City Manager Sheryl Sculley told us that's the goal -- so they're adding a contractor to handle those service calls. If you think you can't get all your trash in a smaller bin, the city wants you to consider sorting your trash to put your recyclables in the blue bin and your compostable trash in the green bin.
- With more people moving to San Antonio, that means more trash bins. To get pick-up handled, $672,000 was added to buy two Automated Side Loader vehicles.
- Ewwww, people! Despite ads and mailers telling people that dirty diapers are NOT recyclable materials, people are still dumping them in the wrong bins. They're going to continue education efforts not just because it's really icky, but because it contaminates all the other actual recyclables near it.
Interested in sustainability programs? Click here and scroll to page 50 for some of those.
Tell your friends (and even strangers) to come to San Antonio!
The city estimates the Hotel Occupancy Tax will bring in $70.8 million. The Arts and Culture Fund benefits from that, getting a little more than $10 million. Residents and visitors can take in cultural events and exhibits -- including those by local artists. And if you want to see how San Antonio puts its spin on movies, the San Antonio Film Commission zeroes in on filmmakers looking for a place to make their next film.
You can see some of the internal service changes (duties technical software and finance duties) by clicking this link and scrolling to page 54.
City employees paychecks will go up
We told you about some of those changes (including a $15/hour minimum starting salary for all city employees) in this story. You can also find salary and other perk info -- such as a student loan payment program -- in great detail beginning on page 56 of this link.
Those old familiar places will get a little boost
A 2017 bond will address some of the city's need for repairs, renovations and upgrades on city sites. The city set aside $5 million for work outside of that bond. Here's a list of those projects:
You can take an even closer look at the fine print (if that's your thing), by clicking this link and scrolling down to page 67.
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