The City of San Antonio will ask voters to renew a one-eighth cent sales tax to continue funding Pre-K 4 SA, an early childhood education program mainly for poor or otherwise disadvantaged children. A “workforce development initiative,” Pre-K 4 SA aims to raise a healthy, “world-class workforce.”
Sales tax is the primary revenue source for the program.
The increase, Proposition A on the ballot, was moved from its original May ballot to November 3 due to coronavirus fears.
Scientific and online polls from local data group Bexar Facts show wide support for the program, which offers free and reduced-price pre-K education as well as resources for teachers. A UT study has also shown improved testing scores for enrolled students.
In June, when the city council approved next year’s budget for Pre-K 4 SA, both citizen speakers who appeared spoke against the tax increase. The first, Rose Hill, accused the city of “double-dipping” taxes and noted that ending the program wouldn’t mean the end of education for enrolled students.
“I think how the program started out, by asking taxpayers back in 2012 to take a one-eighth cent tax increase was great and how they have been working, but right now, I’ve got a concern that we’re gonna come back in November… and we’re gonna ask our taxpayers to come back with another increase in the sales tax,” Hill said.
“We’re already paying a school tax… Everybody’s paying for it. But then we’re gonna come back, and we’re gonna double-dip, and when you go to the ballot box in November, we’re asking you to increase another sales tax. I don’t think it’s fair… If this program does not get funded, these children can still go to our Texas public schools we’ve got here in San Antonio,” Hill said.
Hill went on to call out Pre-K 4 SA management for high salaries, saying the city could find extra money there. Anticipating cuts, program CEO Sarah Baray said earlier in the meeting that the program is “only filling essential positions.”
Jack Finger, the second citizen testifier, called Pre-K 4 SA a “dubious, glorified daycare center” and said the program’s $42 million price tag well surpasses the needs of its 2,000 students.
“Even in our lean times, it is now offering a budget… that is extremely exorbitant.”
Finger noted that school districts in and around San Antonio tend to spend around $8,000 per student while Pre-K 4 SA’s per-student price tag hovers around $21,000.
Former city councilman and mayoral candidate Greg Brockhouse spoke out against the proposition two weeks ago, saying that any tax increase during COVID-19 economic recovery would deal undue damage to struggling taxpayers.
“We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Property values and utility rates continue to skyrocket,” Brockhouse said.
“For the first time in decades, San Antonio will see a sales tax decrease if we vote ‘no’ on these ballot initiatives.”
San Antonio’s ballot will also include Proposition B, which would also put a one-eighth cent sales tax towards workforce training programs, and Advanced Transportation District – Proposition A, which would divert that same tax money to transportation improvements five years from now.
Today is the last day to register to vote with Bexar County Voter Registration.
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