What to know about 3 sales tax propositions on the ballot in San Antonio

Voters will decide Pre-K 4 SA, workforce program, public transportation improvements

Early voting line in Bexar County (Copyright 2020 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – In the Nov. 3 general election, San Antonio voters will decide the fate of two 1/8 cent sales tax propositions, including the continuation of Pre-K 4 SA and the establishment of a workforce program.

In a special election, on the same date and ballot as the presidential election, city residents will also vote on the relocation of a 1/8 cent sales tax that would go toward transportation improvements in 2026.

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Election Day is Tuesday. Voters can choose from more than 300 polling locations to cast their ballot.

Here’s a breakdown of the three propositions up for vote:

Proposition A — The funding of Pre-K 4 SA

The continuation of Pre-K 4 SA, an early childhood program that serves 2,000 students, will be voted upon in the General Election.

San Antonio residents will decide if the city will move forward with the renewal of a 1/8 cent sales tax to fund eight more years of the program.

The issue was moved to the Nov. 3 ballot from its original May 2 election — approved by City Council in April due to the coronavirus pandemic. Pre-K 4 SA initially wanted the matter to head to the polls in May along with other education-related items, plus activists worried it would become disregarded in November’s hefty ballot.

Pre-K 4 SA provides free or reduced-priced, full-day prekindergarten education and professional development for educators at its four centers, as well as distributes grants that support students in other programs.

Voters would essentially renew the sales tax for the same purpose, as the sales tax that voters approved in November 2012 will expire in 2021.

More than three-quarters of Pre-K 4 SA’s budget comes from the sales tax.

“Without that funding, we could not continue on,” said Pre-K 4 SA CEO Sarah Baray told KSAT 12 News in February, a month before the Keep Pre-K 4 SA campaign launched.

Pre-K 4 SA launched in August 2013 under then-Mayor Julian Castro. At the time, the program had just two centers.

Proposition B - 1/8 cent tax for workforce development

As the 1/8 cent sales tax for aquifer protection is expected to meet its maximum next year, voters will decide if that money will be diverted to fund a workforce training and education program.

The tax currently funds the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and the development of Linear Creekway Parks, but it is expected to expire in the spring or summer when it reaches the $180 million limit voters approved.

The tax brings in about $36-$40 million a year.

The city wants to use the tax through Dec. 31, 2025, to help about 40,000 people obtain scholarships and better-paying jobs through the Ready to Work SA program. It’s an effort to help locals break out of poverty — an issue punctuated by the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

Ready to Work SA would distribute two- to four-year scholarships for up to 10,000 people a year and help place residents into careers, but it would not include stipends.

Citing high unemployment rates brought on by the pandemic, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said “we need action now” with helping residents in poverty.

It’s considered an extension of the $75 million for workforce development approved by City Council in June in an overall $191 million “Recovery and Resiliency” plan.

On Sept. 17, the city passed a $100 million plan to fund the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program after the sales tax funding caps out next year.

Advanced Transportation District - Special Election

In a separate, but related, proposal to Proposition B, residents will be asked if the 1/8 cent tax for Ready to Work SA can be diverted to transportation after its funding expires at the end of 2025.

Starting Jan. 1, 2026, the money would be used for the Advanced Transportation District, in which VIA Metropolitan would receive half the money and fund improvements in its systems. It would increase ATD’s share of sales tax to 3/8 cents.

Because funding from the tax would be handed off from the city to VIA, there would not be an increase in taxes.

The item on the ballot states the proceeds would be used for “advanced public transportation services, operations, passenger amenities, equipment and other innovative, advanced public transportation purposes or public transportation mobility enhancement purposes.”

VIA President and CEO Jeffrey Arndt previously told KSAT 12 News that it would increase bus service and options, as well as kick-off plans for an “Advanced Rapid Transit” system.

The majority of the funding, 45%, if approved, would go to expanding mobility options, according to a presentation from VIA staff.

Each of the three propositions has support from a majority of registered voters in San Antonio, according to a recently released Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report Poll.

About the Author

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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