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City of San Antonio FY 2021 Proposed Budget is balanced in spite of COVID-19 pandemic and lays out course to redefine policing

Published on Thursday, August 6, 2020

City of San Antonio FY 2021 Proposed Budget is balanced in spite of COVID-19 pandemic and lays out course to redefine policing

Residents invited to participate in virtual budget town hall meetings

CONTACT: Laura Mayes, (210) 207-1337
laura.mayes@sanantonio.gov
 
Ashley Alvarez, (956) 241-6007
ashley.alvarez@sanantonio.gov

 

SAN ANTONIO (August 6, 2020) – The City of San Antonio’s Fiscal Year 2021 Proposed Budget adjusts to a new fiscal reality while focusing on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and maintaining essential city services. The overall Proposed Budget is $2.9 billion – $7.7 million lower than FY 2020 – and makes strategic and equitable investments in a several key areas to address historic and system disparities experienced by many San Antonio residents.
 
“Like all communities, the COVID-19 global pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our neighborhoods, businesses and local economy. This proposed budget presents difficult choices in order to maintain a fiscally responsible budget, while maintaining critical services,” said City Manager Erik Walsh. “Our nation and our City have also been challenged to confront systemic inequities, and no department has been more challenged in this regard than the Police Department. This proposed budget lays out a strategic and deliberate process to work with our community to create long-term meaningful change.”
 
The proposed budget is balanced despite an estimated $127 million in reduced revenues and continued economic uncertainty. This includes revenue reductions of $24 million in the General Fund and $103 million in the restricted funds. There is no increase in the City property tax rate, and property tax revenues are kept below the new statutory limit of 3.5 percent.
 
The General Fund
The General Fund, the largest operating fund in the proposed budget, is $1.28 billion, which is a 0.4 percent increase over FY 2020. The increase is primarily due to compensation increases from the collective bargaining agreements with the police and fire unions. The General Fund includes $87 million in budget cuts over two years ($38 million in FY 2021 and $49 million in FY 2022). Below are the reductions for FY 2021:

  • Hiring freeze for most vacant positions, no pay increases for City employees, and other compensation adjustments saving $14 million
  • Reductions to the annual street maintenance budget saving $8 million
  • Suspension of economic development incentives saving $5.5 million
  • Reductions to the Police Department overtime budget of $3.4 million
  • Use of CARES Act funding for workforce development saving $2.2 million
  • Expiration of the City’s $1.7 million contribution to Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation
  • Reduction of consultant services for the SA Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan saving $1.4 million
  • Reduction in travel, fuel contingency, and other operating expenses saving $1.6 million

COVID-19 Response and Recovery

Response to COVID-19 continues to be a key priority of the City. Many of the City’s departments like Metro Health, Fire, Neighborhood and Housing Services, Economic Development, and Human Services, have changed their focus to address the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic and help San Antonio recover from its effects.

Public health ranked as the top priority by the approximately 23,000 participants in the SASpeakUp survey regarding the FY 2021 Budget. The Metro Health proposed budget receives a 23 percent increase over the FY 2020 Adopted Budget ($3.6 million), one the largest proportional increases of any department.
 
“The City of San Antonio continues its work through the $191 million Recovery and Resiliency Plan to build a San Antonio community that is stronger, healthier and more resilient than before COVID-19,” said Walsh. “The four pillars of the Recovery and Resiliency Plan, which was funded with federal CARES Act dollars, are housing security, small business support, workforce training and school digital inclusion.”
 
Strategic Investments
The Proposed Budget makes several strategic investments in key City Council and community priorities, including:

  • Violence Prevention: a new division in Metro Health with a total investment of $8.9 million, including $1.3 million in new funds and the transfer of 20 Crisis Response Team workers from SAPD to Metro Health
  • Affordable Housing: $25 million to assist residents at risk of displacement and facilitate the development of affordable housing
  • Homelessness and Mental Health: $1 million increase (total investment in the budget is $45.8milion). $560,000 will allow to expand the Homeless Outreach Team created through the recovery and resiliency plan resulting in 11 district outreach Teams (one per district and downtown). $500,000 is added for an alternative mental health response option
  • Healthy Food Access: $120,000 to add 12 healthy corner stores in Districts 1, 2, 4 and 7, while maintaining support for the 8 stores in District 3
  • Education: $1.1 million to AlamoPROMISE to provide college scholarships to Alamo Colleges students
  • Human Services and Workforce Development: $24.8 million for delegate agencies providing critical services to San Antonio residents

 
Redefining Policing with the Community
“We’ve heard from our residents that they want to redefine policing in our community. The proposed budget takes important steps to begin the process of redefining policing, while establishing a process towards long-term reforms,” Walsh continued. “Together with our residents, we will review foundational issues, set expectations, create opportunities for stakeholder input, identify funding and alternative response mechanisms and develop a new model for providing public safety and support for our community moving forward.”
 
The proposed budget reallocates $1.6 million from the San Antonio Police Department budget to accept a federal COPS grant and dedicate 25 new police officers to domestic violence prevention and intervention.
 
Transportation
The Proposed Budget invests $102 million in street maintenance and $18 million in sidewalks, continuing the historic investments made in infrastructure in recent years. The Proposed Budget also creates a new Transportation Department which will be responsible for multimodal transportation planning, mobility, pedestrian and bicycle safety and transportation demand management.
 
Our Employees
Despite the revenue shortfalls, the Proposed Budget includes no employee layoffs. Civilian employees will receive no pay increases in FY 2021. Mandatory furlough days are proposed for FY 2022.
 
In addition, the City will recognize Juneteenth as one of the City’s 13 holidays by shifting one day from winter holiday.
 
Uniform employees will receive compensation increases consistent with collective bargaining agreements. Police officers will receive a 5-percent wage increase, and firefighters will receive a 2-percent wage increase and 1-percent lump sum payment.
 
Restricted Funds
Revenues from Hotel Occupancy Taxes (HOT), Convention Center and Alamodome are projected to be down in FY 2021 due to impact of COVID-19 by $51 Million compared to the FY 2020 Adopted Budget.  To mitigate the revenue losses, $36.3 million in reductions are being made.

  • Community and Visitors Facility: $19.6 million
  • Visit San Antonio: $9.9 million
  • History and Preservation: $4.2 million
  • Arts and Culture $2.6 million

 
Revenues in the Development Services fund are anticipated to decrease 9% from the FY 2020 Adopted Budget due to projected decreases in commercial of 21.7% and residential of 13.1% permitting activity in FY 2020. There is further decrease in permitting activity in FY 2021 of 10%. As a result, 37 total vacant positions will be frozen by the end of FY 2021.
 
The City will host 10 virtual budget town hall meetings for residents to learn more about the proposed budget and provide their feedback.
 
Residents can tune in to the virtual town hall meetings live on the web by visiting www.sanantonio.gov/tvsa or on the City’s Facebook page. Residents can also watch on television channels: AT&T 99, Grande 20, Spectrum 21, and digital antenna 16.1, or listen live by dialing 210-207-5555 and selecting option 1 for English or option 2 for Spanish.

In addition, residents are invited to submit their budget questions in advance by calling 311, emailing saspeakup@sanantonio.gov, using #SASpeakUp on social media, or by texting their question and “SASpeakUp1” to 55000.

 

A complete schedule for the SASpeakUp on the FY2021 Budget town hall meetings is shown below. All events will be available in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.

Council District Date Time
1 Monday, Aug.24 5 p.m.
2 Monday, Aug.17 7 p.m.
3 Wednesday, Aug.19 7 p.m.
4 (En Español) Tuesday, Aug.25 5:30 p.m.
5 Friday, Aug.28 5 p.m.
6 Thursday, Aug.20 5 p.m.
7 Monday, Aug. 24 7 p.m.
8 Monday, Aug.17 5 p.m
9 Friday, Aug.28 7 p.m.
10 Tuesday, Aug.18 7 p.m.

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Author: Melanie Morales (GPA)

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