City Council Members React to Proposed 2019 Budget

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City Manager Sheryl Sculley presents the proposed 2019 fiscal year budget to City Council.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

City Manager Sheryl Sculley presents the proposed 2019 fiscal year budget to City Council.

San Antonio City Council members generally were receptive to the proposed budget City Manager Sheryl Sculley and her staff presented Thursday morning, but the spending plan had its critics, too.

All 10 Council members and the mayor weighed in, some more frequently than others, on the proposal for how to allocate the City of San Antonio's $2.8 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year. More in-depth discussion and debate lies ahead as they receive presentations about individual departmental budgets and attend public input meetings. Scroll to the bottom of this article or click here to see a schedule of community meetings, including two in Spanish. Click here to see upcoming Council meetings, which also are open to the public.

The budget, which is nearly 6 percent bigger than the 2018 budget and contains no property tax rate increase, increases funding for housing, streets and sidewalks, public safety, animal care services, domestic violence services, and more. New this year is funding to prepare for ozone regulations and the 2020 census as well as to establish a youth re-engagement center.

A budget is often called a "moral document," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, and the City's proposal was called that several times on Thursday.

But that doesn't mean it's morally good, Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) said. He has criticized the housing initiatives as “probably the greatest overreach of governance in decades.” Brockhouse and Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) continued to advocate for some kind of property tax relief such as a local homestead exemption, but that again received no other council member's support.

The City already offers several tax-relief programs for veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities, forgoing $52 million annually in property taxes, Sculley said. The City hasn't raised its property tax for 26 years.

Council members – including Brockhouse, her toughest Council critic – praised Sculley's work in putting together the budget.

"Over the last year and a half or so it may seem like we were stuck in the mud a little bit," Nirenberg said, but this proposal represents a "slowly turning ship" and "moves the city in the right direction" towards addressing needs of housing, transportation, and equity.

"This is a back-to-basics budget," he said, "another testament to the City's stellar fiscal stewardship under Sheryl's leadership."

SA Speak Up, the City's public engagement campaign, will host seven input meetings between Aug. 16 to Sept. 1. Some are geared towards families, others towards college-aged residents, Sculley said.

About 6,000 residents participated in the SA Speak Up campaign last year, according to a news release, and so far nearly 8,000 residents "spoke up" about the 2019 budget process.

City Council is slated to vote on the budget on Sept. 13. The fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

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