City Council approves $2.9 billion budget for 2020 with new property tax exemption

City Council approves $2.9 billion budget for 2020 with new property tax exemption

SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio City Council and Mayor Ron Nirenberg unanimously approved a $2.9 billion budget Thursday that features a new property tax exemption.

The approved budget proposed by City Manager Erik Walsh includes a $5,000 homestead exemption and no city property tax rate increase, despite significant reductions in revenues. The homestead exception — a first of its kind in San Antonio’s history — will slash $5,000 off the appraised values of homes leading to decreased tax bills from the City.

Housing remained a priority for representatives creating the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Officials set aside $34.8 million in the proposed budget to address housing affordability, including a partnership with external agencies to gain an additional $11 million for these efforts. The San Antonio Housing Trust and San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) plans on investing another $5 million into improving affordable housing options in the city, along with as much as $6.2 million in grant money.

“Months of deliberations and work have been poured into a more equitable document that will serve as a declaration of our service to San Antonio,” Nirenberg said. “This a budget that serves our taxpayers, honors our heritage, and builds a framework to provide socioeconomic and structural opportunities to each and every San Antonio resident. Thank you to every City employee who faithfully serves this community, thank you to Erik and your team on a job well done, and thank you to my Council colleagues for being such diligent partners throughout this process.”

The 2020 budget adds $1.6 million to support families and children, with $500,000 dedicated to address family violence through a family violence prevention community awareness campaign, a school-based violence prevention program and a parenting program to decrease child abuse. An additional $500,000 will be set aside for community-based organizations that address gaps as identified in the Domestic Violence Comprehensive plan.

Walsh’s proposed budget will fund and operate a Trauma Informed Care Certifying Process in order to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and behavioral health issues for children dealing with adverse upbringings.

“The Fiscal Year 2020 Budget invests in the priorities of the Mayor and Council, along with the priorities of our residents, while maintaining San Antonio’s strong financial position,” Walsh said. “The City of San Antonio will strategically work to address domestic violence in our community, make housing more affordable for our residents and focus on the basics like public safety, streets and sidewalks.”

Authorities allocated $1.3 million in the budget to hire 16 more San Antonio police officers in the department. Six of the new officers will sergeants within the Crisis Response Team (CRT) that investigates domestic violence cases across the city. The remaining 10 openings will be SAFFE officers to maintain day-to-day interaction with the public. With 10 new SAFFE officers in the department police will have the ability to follow-up with victims of domestic violence 30 days, 60 days and 90 days following an incident to reduce the chances of re-victimization.

The city of San Antonio plans on hiring four Parks Police Officers aimed to secure the new acres of park land and creekways.

Here are more highlights from the proposed budget:

  • $1.6 million invested in a coordinated effort to address family violence and provide trauma informed care
  • $1.3 million to hire 16 more San Antonio Police Officers, six of which will increase supervision within the Crisis Response Team (CRT). The remaining ten positions will be SAFFE officers and will augment the work of the CRT
  • $34.8 million for a coordinated approach to housing, accomplished by leveraging funds from external partners
  • $110 million for street maintenance funding for projects across the city
  • $17 million for sidewalk improvements, including a new sidewalk repair crew
  • $219,000 for a new micro-mobility team, dedicated to planning and implementing micro-mobility lanes for bicycles, scooters and other forms of transportation
  • $1.9 million and 16 new positions to support parks and greenways
  • $1 million to address homelessness, funded by 50 cent fee increases to the river barge and Tower of Americas tickets, respectively
  • $2 million added to the City’s reserves to plan for the impact of state imposed revenue caps, which will take effect in Fiscal Year 2021
  • $500,000 additional investment in the Parks Tree Fund, which provides for the preservation and adoption of trees

A few City Council members released statements Thursday afternoon regarding the new budget:

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, District 5:

One of the most significant budget achievements is that this is the third cycle in which we use the equity lens I introduced and championed to ensure that the areas of the city with the most need are the ones that get the required attention.” “The projects that I find to be most significant this year,” she added, “are the Mexican-American Civil Rights Institute – that will shine a light on our city’s central role in the struggle for civil rights; the funding for trauma informed care – which has the potential to transform the way we deliver education and social services; and the funding for the Girl’s Empowerment Summit Event – that will have a direct impact on the lives of the girls and the future of San Antonio.

Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda, District 6

I am very pleased with the budget we approved today. I began my term as a City Council member by stating my priorities for my district: public safety, affordable housing, property tax relief, park space, and the infrastructure needs of District 6. This budget goes a long way toward addressing those priorities. Specifically, we are pleased to have the addition of a pocket park in the John Jay High School area, a dedicated Animal Control Services officer, supplemental medical services to cover SAFD Zone 44, and the repurposing of a blighted property into a linear creek trailhead. All of these items will significantly improve the quality of life in District 6.

Councilman Clayton Perry, District 10:

This year’s budget reflects the hard work of City staff and fellow councilmembers in ensuring that our neighbors’ needs are being met. Many thanks go to City Manager Erik Walsh, Maria Villagomez and Justina Tate and to all of the organizations and community members who took the time to express their budget priorities.

The FY 2020 budget provides $820.3 million to Public Safety, including 10 new SAFFE Officers and 6 new Crisis Response Team Sergeants. As a Council, we have committed $110M to street improvements, with District 10 receiving $13.7 million of that funding. We are also funding a City Homestead Tax Exemption for all homeowners for the first time in San Antonio’s history and directly putting money back in the pockets of our neighbors.

With that said, I do have some major concerns with the FY 2020 budget. For instance, we should not increase the revenue we receive from SAWS. The City has received 2.7% of SAWS revenue since 1992 to support our General Fund. This fiscal year, we are making SAWS provide us with 4% of their revenues to the tune of $9.9 million. This will likely lead to a SAWS rate increase in the future. There are not enough efficiencies in this budget. The budget grew by $91 million since last year and almost all City departments increased their spending. I am also opposed to using Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) funding to support affordable housing projects. Tax exempt affordable housing does not contribute back into the TIRZ as that funding is based on property tax increases. Those funds should only be used for projects that will continue to contribute back to the Zone.

Passing a balanced budget is one of the most critical tasks of the City Council. The budget document is the most important contract we make with our neighbors in San Antonio each fiscal year. I fully realize that there is perceived good and bad in every budget. While it is unfortunate that we do not vote on each line item individually, I support the budget as a whole. Compromising on certain items and supporting the overall budget despite its flaws is oftentimes the best path forward. It is important for everyone’s position to be heard and considered, as we are all representing the best interests of our city and our neighbors.

Property taxes, public safety, infrastructure, and public facilities have always been at the top of the list for San Antonians; these concerns are often stressed by our neighbors here in District 10 and remain the focus of my attention. The City’s budget should be focused on providing more funding for those core services.