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$3.4 billion San Antonio city budget plan to include reduced tax rate, potential CPS Energy customer credits

The budget proposal will be unveiled at Thursday's City Council meeting. Here’s how some of the money breaks down.

SAN ANTONIO — The City of San Antonio will present its first proposed budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year at its meeting Thursday.

Among the top priorities for city council includes property tax relief, public safety, employee compensation and shoring up its civilian workforce of roughly 7,000 employees.

On top of the property tax relief, the city will be providing $50 million in credits to all CPS Energy customers after a summer of record heat led to high electric bills.

Overall, the $3.4 billion can be broken down into three parts:

  • General fund: $1.5 billion
  • Capital budget: $641 million
  • Restricted funds budget: $1.2 billion

City staff told reporters that over 11,000 people surveyed ranked property tax relief, police, fire, streets, parks and recreation as their top priorities.

Here are some of the biggest highlights to the budget for the upcoming year.

CPS Energy Customer Relief

After a summer of high gas prices, high electricity demand and abnormally high temperatures, the city says it has seen extraordinarily high revenue.

In Thursday’s budget proposal, the city wants to give a $50 million credit to every single CPS Energy customer based on energy usage in July, via a one-time payment. 

The city says the average residential bill in July was $230. The credit, which would be applied to the resident’s October bill would be $31, or about 13.3%. The credit will increase or decrease depending on how much energy you used during July.

$45 million would go directly to all accounts and $5 million will be applied to the residential energy assistance partnership, which is for eligible low-income customers.

The city council will need to act on this item separate from the budget by September 1. 

But Mario Bravo, the council representative for District 1, is proposing instead to put the $50 million in extra revenue towards more proactive solutions in anticipation of future extreme weather. 

The proposal involves allocating $10 million to outfitting local community resilience centers to provide relief from severe weather events; $20 million to "residential weatherization and energy-efficient upgrades," particularly to help low-income households; and the final $20 million to a tree-planting campaign to reduce heat island effects. 

"These investments will help our residents by protecting them from future energy bill shock and the detrimental effects of severe weather in what is rapidly becoming our new normal," Bravo wrote in a memo to his colleagues. 

Property Tax Relief

There will be a proposed reduction in the property tax rate along with an increase in homestead exemptions. A general homestead 10% increase, an increase for people over 65 years old, and an increase for disabled persons was approved by city council earlier this year.

With the senior tax freeze, the city says it’s foregoing about $95 to $96 million of property tax revenue. The increased homestead exemptions approved by council in June equals $22 million of the total value.

Staff will propose reducing the property tax rate by 1.67 cents, dropping it to 54.161 cents per $100 in value. City staff say it was more of a decrease than they were expecting after home appraisal values went up 28% this past year throughout Bexar County.

City staff will have to hold two hearings before adopting the tax rate during this phase of the budget process.

Public Safety

The public safety budget could take up the lowest percentage of the overall budget in at least seven years.

City staff say in their proposal, the overall public safety budget is 60.7%, well below the city council’s priority of keeping public safety spending below 66% of the city’s budget.

The proposal recommends 78 new police officer positions, and 50 of those depend on receiving a federal grant by September 2022. 28 other officers will supervise the new North St. Mary’s St police station opening in 2024.

The budget also proposes adding 21 new uniform positions for firefighters, including 15 firefighters to staff a new ladder truck at Station 45 and six firefighter positions to establish a medical first responder unit at Fire Station 24

City staff say the public safety budget is not outpacing the growth of the city’s total budget like it had been in years past.

Civilian Workforce

Like most employers, the city says it is feeling the effects of the pandemic in finding and retaining employees.

The city, which hires about 7,000 civilian employees currently has a 9.6% vacancy rate. During the height of the pandemic, that rate was around 11% to 12%, pre-pandemic it was at 7.6%.

The city will propose raising the entry level wage to $17.50 an hour and providing a 5% increase across the board for all civilian employees. The existing entry-level wage is $15.60 per hour.

There will also be a minimum 2% market rate adjustment for existing staff, according to the city. About two-thirds of those employees will get a minimum 2% increase, and one-third could get between 2% to 7%.

Employee benefits will also change, there will be a 20% reduction to civilian medical care premiums for employees hired after 2009 and no increase to medical care premiums for employees hired prior to 2009.

The city says results of an employee survey with about 5,000 respondents show their top three priorities was to fill vacancies, pay market rate, and healthcare.

Capital Infrastructure

The City of San Antonio is also focusing on the basics, some of which were incorporated into packages like the $1.2 billion bond program approved by voters this year.

The proposed budget will invest $154 million in maintenance, including $116 million in streets, $21 million in sidewalks and $1 million in bike facilities.

$160 million is included in the budget to start the 2022 bond projects. The city says the proposed budget also accounts for planned improvements to the San Antonio Airport which will add a third terminal.

$35.3 million in the budget will go towards a six-year $160 million capital improvement project for the Convention Center and the Alamodome. That program includes maintenance, capital replacements and facility improvements.

What’s next

City Council will hear the proposed 2022-2023 budget during Thursday’s City Council meeting, and is expected to vote on it Sept. 15. At least two public hearings will be held for the tax rate, on August 31 and Sept. 8.

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