After months of wrangling and a long list of last-minute amendments, the city has a new $2.5 billion budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins October 1.
The biggest victory by grassroots activists is a boost to the city's entry level wage.
Communities Organized for Public Service and Metro Alliance advocated for months to bring relief to the city’s lowest paid employees.
Thursday’s vote brings the city's entry level wage to $13.75 an hour.
"We want workers to have one good paying job, not several bad ones, so that they have time with their families, but most importantly, rest," A COPS/ Metro spokeswoman said
“It's a win, yes, and we celebrate and we're happy about it," Robert Cruz, COPS/Metro Groupmember, said. "We wanted $14 per hour, but after meeting with the Mayor and hearing her point of view and some obstacles we agreed to $13.75.”
“It's just going to be transformative for our city," District 5 Representative Shirley Gonzales said.
Despite concerns from Councilman Joe Krier, the city’s budget included a $1.1 million fund for the SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan which addresses land use, urban design and policy for future residents of San Antonio.
In a statement released Thursday, Krier said: "This morning, I voted for a budget that maintains basic services — such as public safety, streets and drainage, and senior services — as the City’s top priority. While I don’t agree with every line item, I believe we’ve kept our expenses down overall while making the investments that will move San Antonio forward."
City Manager Sheryl Sculley said for the 24th consecutive year the budget includes no increase in the property tax rate. Increased citizen involvement is one important development during this budget planning cycle. Since the process began last June, more than 5,000 people have had their say.
“We also wanted to reach young families so this year we were able to attend a number of community and family events where we actually surveyed the community members to get their input on the budget," Sculley said.
Several council members call this a 'back to basics' budget, with almost two-thirds of the General Fund going to public safety.
A little more than $80 million dollars has been dedicated to streets, sidewalks and pedestrian safety.
“I think I'm proudest that we're able to continue increasing the construction for streets and sidewalks. Secondly, we are adding additional police officers in this budget.," Scully said. "25 that we can add as part of a grant. We have our fingers crossed that we'll receive a grant from the Department of Justice for 25 positions.”
Roberto Trevino, who represents District 1, released the following statement about the new budget:
“Included within the budget are several line items that I feel will address a diverse range of issues:
1. $500,000 will be budgeted towards the expansion of the San Antonio Under 1 Roof program which I began in last year’s budget and which will help extend the life of homes and trim electricity bills for underprivileged segments of the population in Districts 1 and 2. This comes after a successful pilot program roll-out in District 1.
2. Approximately $233,000 will fund the significant expansion of the City’s Spanish Translation services to include the hire of an official translator who will be tasked with ensuring City documents, agendas, and meetings are inclusive of our robust Spanish-speaking population.
3. The allocation of $412,069 towards increasing the entry wage from $13 per hour to $13.75 per hour for civilian employees is a positive first step on the City’s “path to $15 per hour.” I am proud of the work the City Council, the City Manager’s Office, and C.O.P.S. METRO Alliance completed to provide a better living wage for those who help to keep San Antonio great.
4. Lastly, I applaud the $2.2 million in funding approved for Project Quest. Year after year, the agency has demonstrated that its economic development strategy, centered on work readiness training, support services, and academic enhancement, is essential for the well-trained workforce in San Antonio. Also, I support the designation of Project Quest as a line item in future budgets.”
The City has prepared a slide show with full highlights of the new budget, so if you want to crunch the numbers yourself, here’s a link.