The City of San Antonio on Thursday laid out a proposed $2.7 billion budget for the coming year, and now it appears there are 2.7 billion questions, concerns, and criticisms being raised about it, from members of City Council and others, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The budget does not raise the property tax rate, and includes major street improvements in five Council Districts, 1,2,3,5, and 10, as part of the 'Equity Lens' program recently unveiled at City Hall, which aims to correct the inequities which were part of city development in the Twentieth Century, where generally upscale, Anglo neighborhoods were favored for everything from street maintenance to drainage and infrastructure repairs.
It also hires 40 new police officers and 43 new firefighters and paramedics, and raises the City's starting wage to $14.25, as part of an effort to set a City wage floor of $15 an hour.
But one concern about the budget is it abandons the so called Shot Spotter program. That program, a project of former Councilman Alan Warrick, uses technology to pinpoint the origin of gunfire, with the idea that it will enable police to get to the scene of shootings quicker and apprehend the gunmen.
But Police Chief William McManus says the problem is, Shot Spotter doesn't work.
"I told them that the bottom line for me, the measure of success for me would be arrests, and case closures, and we have not seen that at all," he said.
McManus says after taxpayers pumped about $400,000 into Shot Spotter over the past 18 months, it has been credited with a grand total of four arrests, and, at $100,000 per arrest, that is not an amazing return on investment.
Other Council members did not hesitate to raise concerns.
New north side Councilman John Courage questioned the City staff over the new push for 'bike lanes' on major roads.
"We have been initiating bike lanes in many parts of the city," he said. "But those bike lanes are inherently unsafe. All they are is white stripes along the road."
He said some sort of physical barrier would be desirable to better protect bicyclists in his district, and, possibly, encourage more people to ride bikes.
Northwest side Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who has not hesitated to disrupt City Hall in his month on City Council, it was Brockhouse who criticized the boards of CPS Energy and SAWS for shoving huge piles of cash at their CEO's without any input from City Council, called out City staff for its new 'equity' focus, asking where that even came from, and grilling staffers on seemingly implementing a new focus for City government and City management without the Council's input.
"It is just stunning to me, about how quickly we turn around, and how we haven't even had a discussion about what the 'equity lens' means," he said.
Some on Council complained that the first they heard about the city's trendy piviot to 'equity' as part of the core values of the City, was when the City's new 'Equity Director,' who Brockhouse said he has still not met, briefed Council at a work session on Wednesday.
There were also concerns raised about whether drainage fees are being spent properly, considering the decided lack of draining during the three and a half inch rain the city received on Monday.
Northeast side Councilman Clayton Perry took issue with City staffers bragging about holding the tax rate steady. He says considering that the average property valuation is skyrocketing, up between 7 and 9 percent, holding it steady isn't good enough.
"We should see if now is the time the city should take a look at rolling that back again, and softening that blow of property tax increases," Perry said.
One question was answered promptly. Courage received assurances from City Manager Sheryl Sculley that there is no money in the new budget to paint any more crosswalks 'rainbow' colors, as was approved at a crosswalk on Main Street last month.