For the first time in the city’s history, San Antonio’s projected budget for 2022 exceeds $3 billion.
The anticipated 2022 budget is somewhat more robust than the 2021 budget, thanks to higher sales, hotel tax income, and federal recovery funding this year. It’s a 4-percentage-point gain. The city has restored cutbacks made in 2020 and 2021, such as its street repair program, to full capacity. However, the coronavirus’ delta variant’s potential medical and economic impact has raised some concern.
San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh said the city is ready to adjust its focus if the coronavirus outbreak management goes wrong and resources like federal funds remain in the city’s hands.
“The rate at which everything has transpired in the past three weeks — and who knows what will happen in the next three weeks — might be a lot worse than January.” But I’m convinced that with those resources and the capacity to adjust the knobs, we’ll be ready if council modifies the approved budget,” he added.
The planned budget for the year 2022 is $3.1 billion. The city’s general budget, which covers operations for the bulk of local services like as police, fire, libraries, solid waste, and other agencies, accounts for around $1.3 billion of that. The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, the city’s health agency, would be given more attention, according to Walsh.
“Public health departments, in my opinion, are right now like fire departments after 9/11,” Walsh said. “We’re in a bit of a surge right now and not through, but the components of what we’ve learned are going to be critical to address as we move ahead.”
The city’s sales tax income has increased by 11% over last year, when it increased by roughly 4.5 percent on average, a jump Walsh ascribed to pent-up demand. Despite an uptick in tourism in 2021, HOT income has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, and is still 24 percent lower than in 2019.
The growth of the delta variant is beginning to have an impact on the city’s convention economy, with at least two major conferences canceling their planned visits. Walsh, on the other hand, did not indicate which two.
“Those are choices made by the customers on their own.” As a result, we’ll be keeping a careful eye on it. And it’s another reason why we should be cautious in certain of our business sectors,” he said.
The city got $163 million from the federal government under the American Rescue Plan Act this summer. The city will get a second subsidy of the same amount next year as a half payment.
Over the following three years, the city will spend $97.5 million of the ARPA money currently on hand. The HOT fund will get around $50 million to help mitigate some of the pandemic-related losses. The HOT fund supports departments such as arts and culture, as well as tourism-related enterprises such as sports facilities and conference centers.
The remaining APRA funds, estimated to be about $70 million, are being kept in reserve until the U.S. The Treasury Department offers instructions on how to make advantage of it. It might also be used to react to a pandemic if the situation becomes critical.
The San Antonio Police Department would get a 3.8 percent boost under the proposed budget. The rise is in line with past years; the police department’s budget has increased by around 3% per year for the last ten years.
According to the budget, 15 additional cops will be hired. That includes 12 officers for the San Antonio Fear Free Environment (SAAFE) program which has officers patrol specific neighborhoods on a regular basis and three officers to the downtown bike patrol. The project will cost around $1.8 million and will be a long-term addition to the department.
Over the last few months, the city has been gathering citizen input on what role the police department should play in response to certain calls in a series of nearly 30 public meetings. As a consequence, some calls will be handled by different officers.
For instance, calls for animals such as barking dogs will be sent to Animal Care Services instead of the police department. Fireworks-related calls will be sent to the San Antonio Fire Department’s arson section. The city will also use code enforcement to respond to loud music calls instead of police at first, and the city is also exploring a combined approach to calls involving mental health. None of responsibility shifts would affect the police department’s overall budget.
During that series of meetings, citizens expressed the need for more streetlights. The volume of which Walsh said took him by surprise.
“I was not prepared for the number of times street lights came up. I mean, that was a real issue. So we wanted to make a big investment of that next year,” he said.
The city would spend about $5.8 million in assessing the need and implementing more street lights under the proposed budget.