San Antonio mayor wants to confront perennial challenges amid pandemic recovery

Nirenberg focused on jobs program, property tax relief, affordable housing in State of the City Address

Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Tuesday delivered his first in-person state of the city address.

SAN ANTONIO – Mayor Ron Nirenberg touted San Antonio’s strong economic recovery in Tuesday’s State of the City address, but he also acknowledged more must be done to resolve generational challenges.

During the annual address, Nirenberg focused on the city’s recovery efforts after steep economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Winter Storm Uri.

“We’ve been through some hard times, but I’m happy to report that the state of our city is strong, and with eyes wide open, we are moving forward,” Nirenberg said. “San Antonio has shown its resilience. We always do and will work to enhance workforce development, addressing housing affordability needs, investing in infrastructure and continuing economic development.”

The mayor pointed to the $200 million voter-approved SA: Ready to Work program, which he had championed as a way to fight the “cracks in our economic foundation.” The program is expected to launch next month, with the ultimate goal of getting at least 15,700 San Antonians through certification or degree programs and into in-demand jobs.

“We are writing a bright new chapter in San Antonio’s history, and if we do this right, SA: Ready to Work will be a big win that enhances the economic prospects for our workforce and for employers,” Nirenberg said.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg delivers San Antonio's State of the City address

Nirenberg also highlighted the $150 million housing bond, part of a $1.2 billion municipal bond package on the May 7 ballot. Early voting began Monday.

Calling the housing bond an “unprecedented investment in affordable housing for our city,” he also emphasized “the six propositions (on the ballot) represent an essential investment in our city’s infrastructure without increasing taxes.”

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As property values and home prices skyrocket, Nirenberg assured the public that “property tax relief is coming.”

“City staff is already poring over the numbers, and City Council will consider proposals for moving forward with tax relief this fall,” he said.

Though the mayor did not provide any details during his speech about the shape that relief could take, he told reporters afterward it would likely be a combination of raising the city’s homestead exemption and lowering its tax rate.

Skyrocketing property appraisals are projected to put city tax revenues well beyond a state-imposed cap. So, unless they wants to hold an election on the tax rate, city officials have to find a way to rein back their portion of residents’ property tax bills.

Sky-high property appraisals could prompt a higher homestead exemption for SA homeowners

The city has the bare minimum homestead exemption on the books, a flat $5,000 exemption, but it could raise it up to 20% of the home’s value.

The city council typically sets its tax rate in September when it passes the annual budget. However, it would have to approve a new homestead exemption before July 1 if council members want it to affect homeowners’ bills on the most recent property appraisals.

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Alamo Asian American Chamber of Commerce, and San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE) hosted Tuesday’s sold-out event at Tech Port Center+Arena, located in the heart of Port San Antonio’s technology campus.

Nirenberg was elected Mayor on June 10, 2017, and served as the District 8 City Council representative for four years beginning with his election in June of 2013.

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About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.