Council (and cretinous Council watchers) got an introduction to the City Manager's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year this morning, one which, perhaps unsurprisingly, balances itself on expected revenues from San Antonio's powerhouse CPS Energy and its magically* inflating natural-gas prices.
The $2.3-billion budget holds property taxes steady at their current rate and keeps the SA employee ranks relatively stable (with a 2-percent, across-the-board cost-of-living adjustment), yet makes it into the black in another economically stilted year on the promise that CPS will make up the difference. Of course, many of you may remember the relatively warm winter** we just went through. A warm winter that would have saved you money on heating had the City-owned utility not artificially* bumped their natural gas charges to make up for Sr. Frost's case of missing chill.
By keeping property taxes static at 56.569 per $100 property valuation, City Manager Sheryl Scully said she expects a dip in property tax-related revenue of about $5 million, or roughly 2 percent. Sales tax is also expected to return less this year. So, new CPS CEO Doyle Beneby, who got a gracious welcome from individual Council members, the pressure is on to tax the city on the sly again since forecasts suggest another warmer-than-normal winter is on tap for the region. Said Scully: “We're counting on Doyle and his team to maintain a well-run utility.”
There are still a slew of budget meetings ahead for budget hawks (and doves â?¦ see bottom), but Mayor JuliÃ¡n Castro predicted the CM's handiwork will pass pretty much as is when it comes back for a final vote September 16.
While the total budget is trimmed by a neat $12 mil, Scully is suggesting $5.5 $1.5 million go to Haven for Hope `bringing, if adopted, City's total commitment to date to $5.5 million`, while $830,000 worth of other city services are proposed to be axed. There are also some sneaky “fee adjustments” (read, increases) that would be made to medical transport and parks fees.
Other highlights include:
- $1.5M increase to the library budget (which trimmed $500,000 but still has two libraries to open as one closes this year);
- $2.7M to stimulate downtown neighborhood development and investment;
- $1.5M for a land bank to identify, purchase, and development vacant lots (great way to complete the take-over of properties targeted by a renegade Dangerous Structures Board);
- $500,000 to Animal Care Services' expansion at Brooks City-Base, funding for nine new positions there, and $250,000 to help maintain affordable spay-neuter programs in the city.
Oh â?? small warning to you artists and arts lovers out there â?? the city's share of the Hotel Occupancy Tax to be diverted to local arts orgs would be sliced, too, from 15 percent to 13 percent, under Scully's pitch.
For the harder-to-please among you, you'll find plenty of raisin'-hell opportunities.
Both the district-centric public hearings â?¦
â?¦ and the mashup Council work-session variety.
* Our use of the terms 'magically' and 'artifically' have been challenged. CPS electricity rates are modified through monthly fuel adjustments. While last winter's high prices corresponded with warm weather (and therefore lower natural gas usage across the city), the prices were adjusted to make up for the period's rising natural gas prices. A review of industry data suggests economic factors (including lower rig counts) played a greater role than blatant utility alchemy. But, for our part, we're not ruling out sheer wizardry â?? of either necromantic or creative-accounting varieties.