Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, San Antonio and the Alamo Heights Independent School District have been busy approving their fiscal year 2019 budgets.
While the city budgets emphasize more money for infrastructure improvements, the school district budget freezes employee salaries and reflects officials’ frustration with state lawmakers over public school financing. Budgets took effect Oct. 1.
The school district projects $89.7 million in expenditures, a rise from $84.6 million in 2017-2018. However, no pay scales are being increased for district employees.
The primary reason for that is the projected revenue — AHISD expects $88 million this new school year, compared with $90.1 million in 2017-2018. As in other districts across Texas, funding from the state to AHISD is due to drop. Alamo Heights’ allotment decreases from $3.9 million to $3.4 million.
Dana Bashara, at one of her first school board meetings as superintendent, had more choice words about the budget.
“I just wish that our state legislators would be passionate about solving the problem of school finance,” she said.
Although the district is seeing taxable values rise from $7.3 billion to $7.4 billion, AHISD expects to pay $37 million in “recapture” funds under the state’s so-called “Robin Hood” school finance plan, which redistributes money from property-rich districts to poorer ones.
The state’s haul is a hike from 2018 — $33 million — and the annual recapture amount is expected to keep going up.
As such, Alamo Heights ISD is keeping a close eye on its expenditures by freezing all employee pay, despite rising student enrollment and what school district officials call sound fiscal management.
“Bottom line is, that isn’t sustainable,” Place 5 Trustee Bonnie Giddens said at a recent school board meeting, adding the administration has cut as much as possible.
Bashara, a longtime AHISD educator before being named superintendent this year, said the situation is hard to stomach.
“We knew this was coming, but that doesn’t give us any relief,” she said. “It gives us heartburn, it gives us frustration, it weighs heavily on all of us.”
Bashara said while AHISD continues to offer a competitive base pay for teachers, “that’s not going to be sustained over time.”
The superintendent praised educators for the passion they bring to their jobs.
The city plans to spend $1 million over the next year as part of an ongoing 20-year street maintenance program, and another $630,000 to support the replacement of a sewer line on Harrigan Court.
The new budget includes $299,409 to change out public safety equipment, and funds to add a school resource officer, for which the Alamo Heights Independent School District would reimburse the city most of the costs.
Other planned capital projects in Alamo Heights’ new budget include improvements to the city swimming pool and the Judson Nature Trails building, and the municipality’s contributions toward cleaning up Olmos Basin and upgrading Broadway.
On the whole, the city projects $10.5 million in general fund operating revenues and $9.9 million in expenses, up from $10.1 million and $8.7 million in fiscal year 2018, respectively.
The city will provide its employees with a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment. Alamo Heights is staying with the current property tax rate of 38.6 cents per $100 valuation.
“Property valuations this year continue to be on the upswing given the 5.2 percent increase in net taxable values for 2018,” City Manager Mark Browne wrote in the draft budget summary. “The city also benefits from the improvement and renewal of its established commercial district.”
The city projects $3.48 million in expenses and $3.69 million in revenue for 2019. The city’s 2018 budget featured $3.6 million in general fund expenditures and $3.7 million in revenue.
The city’s new budget sets aside $175,000 in envisioned repairs to the City Hall complex and $164,500 for street maintenance.
Olmos Park will provide a 2 percent merit pay hike to all employees except the Public Works Department, where personnel get a 3 percent increase. The city proposed a property tax rate of 42.4 cents per $100 valuation.
San Antonio’s $2.8 billion budget, approved Sept. 13, carries $110 million in road maintenance, including the continuation of a two-year program to improve older streets in City Council districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10.
As in previous years, the budget does not call for an increase in the property-tax rate.
San Antonio’s new budget also has $19 million in sidewalk improvements, $17 million more for affordable housing, and money to hire more Animal Care Services and park police officers.
The city for the second year set up the budget using an “equity lens,” which aims to distribute monies to historically overlooked areas, officials said.
“Creating a balanced budget that provides residents with increased access to essential services without increasing the city’s property tax rate is one of my highest priorities,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said in a news release.
The city’s fiscal year follows the traditional calendar year, so the City Council expects to adopt its 2019 budget on Dec. 10.
The council will hold one public budget workshop at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 17, and may hold another later in October or early November.
The city is keeping the same property tax rate, 36.5 cents per $100 valuation.