The general fund is set at $1.51 billion, also a historic city-high. This includes most basic city services including police, fire, public works, and parks.
City Manager Erik Walsh praised the proposed budget, claiming that it “put[s] money back in the pockets of our residents.”
The proposition aims to offer some financial relief after the hot summer faced by San Antonio residents. $50 million is proposed for rebates on residents’ power bills. This would yield a one-time payment of about $30 per ratepayer.
Also included in the budget proposal is significant funding for infrastructure projects, with $154 million earmarked for improvements in sidewalks, streets, and traffic signals.
Additionally, the budget includes $140 million to develop a third terminal at the San Antonio International Airport, which has often been criticized as too small for the seventh largest city in the United States.
The budget also includes a decreased proportion of funding for the San Antonio Police and Fire Departments. Under this budget proposal, police and fire would receive 60.7 percent of the general fund allotment, their lowest percentage in over 10 years.
The move to decrease funding is seemingly at odds with San Antonio voter priorities.
In a survey of 11,000 residents, the city asked San Antonians to rank their budget priorities. The top five responses were property tax relief, police, fire, streets, and parks/recreation, ranked in order of importance.
Property values in the city have risen precipitously over the past few years. This has significantly increased the tax burden on San Antonio residents.
Additionally, San Antonio’s violent crime rate was approximately 500 per 100,000 residents in 2020, which is much higher than the national average. Out of highest-populated Texas cities, San Antonio’s crime per-capita is second only to Houston.
The crime rate has also increased over the past 10 years. In 2012, there were around 7,000 violent crimes, which was almost equal to the national per capita average. In 2021, it jumped to around 11,000, an increase of over 50 percent.
Though the percentage of the general fund has decreased for police and fire, they will both still take in more total funding this year.
Even with these departments’ total funding increasing, the population of San Antonio continues to expand and the city was one of the fastest growing U.S. cities through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg expressed contentment with the level of funding for public safety departments outlined in the budget proposal at the Thursday meeting.
“As long as the public safety budgets are growing in proportion to the city’s budget overall and are not growing out of whack, I’m happy,” Nirenberg said Thursday.
Nirenberg and other San Antonio City Council leaders have previously been at the forefront of initiatives focused on cutting police budgets.
Most recently, some city council members pushed to decrease the San Antonio Police Department’s funding during 2021 budget negotiations but failed.
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Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.