San Antonio city council members unanimously approved a $2.9 billion city budget on Thursday, which will include increased funds for affordable housing and handling domestic violence.
And the police department will not be defunded, although some monies will be diverted.
Council members have been listening to what national protests have called for but also to comments from the community regarding making changes to public safety, the city’s largest expense.
In 2021, the San Antonio Police Department will hire for an additional 16 positions to deal with domestic violence with an allotment of $1.3 million.
The SAPD will also receive $500,000 to lay the groundwork for a new police substation on the South Side and to develop a 2022 bond program to fund the project.
However, the police force will see a $3 million cut in overtime pay for their staff. Money will be diverted from the department to fund mental health programs. There has been a lot of planning and discussion about implementing changes how SAPD deals with mental health calls, according to city manager of San Antonio Eric Walsh.
The matter of police reform was also part of the discussion. One reform will switch social workers from Public Safety to Metro Health to help prevent violence before it occurs and reduce the need to respond to 911 calls for mental health issues. An additional $6 million will be allotted to mental health services next year.
“There is a lot of work to do and there’s a lot of pain in the voices that we hear from our community and we’re gonna be working every day to address them and to work together in doing so,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Fox San Antonio reports.
Another police reform that city councilors hope to implement is to give the Chief more power to fire bad cops.
“We have talked a lot about what our priorities are in the areas of discipline and changing that framework within the contract as being a top priority and giving the chief more of a role in the final say of discipline,” Walsh said.
The SAPD will also see a 1.7 percent budget increase as part of its contractual union agreement; however, the upcoming collective bargaining agreement could undergo major changes; negotiations with the San Antonio Police Union will begin in 2021.
Beyond the SAPD, one of the city’s largest considerations is the high degree of uncertainty imposed by the pandemic and the economic impact it has had locally. Council members are searching for creative ways to keep services running.
Some other city budget highlights include the following:
- $34.8 million for a coordinated approach to housing,
- $110 million for street maintenance funding for projects across the city,
- $219,000 for a new micro-mobility team, dedicated to planning and implementing micro-mobility lanes for bicycles, scooters, and other forms of transportation,
- $1.9 million and 16 new positions to support parks and greenways,
- $500,000 additional investment in the Parks Tree Fund, which provides for the preservation and adoption of trees, and a
- $5,000 property tax homestead exemption and no city property tax rate increase, despite significant reductions in revenues.
The 2021 budget saw a cut of just $4.5 million compared to last year’s budget. Next year, the city is expecting a much larger cut, to the tune of $50 million, and council members are already planning how to continue providing services without furloughing or laying off employees.
Publicly owned water and energy utilities helped bolster the budget this year, San Antonio Report noted, a result of increased electricity usage during an unusually hot summer in Texas.
In order to increase revenue next year, city councilors will vote to add new properties to the county’s property tax rolls. They are expecting to see a $26.7 million property tax revenue hike in the coming budget.
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