The city has passed a $2.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2019, and that means projects needed in District 9 — including on the far North Side — will now be funded, officials said.
Approved Sept. 13 and effective Oct. 1, about $1 million for a new senior center, $558,000 for participatory budget community endeavors, and more than $500,000 to address drainage issues are among the district highlights for the new financial season.
It’s the largest budget in San Antonio’s 300-year history.
District 9 Councilman John Courage said he wholly supported the new expenditures because they address critical needs and are fair to all sectors of the city. San Antonio now employs an “equity lens” when deciding on disbursements, as dollars buoy traditionally overlooked neighborhoods.
“(It had) necessary funds to address resident-requested drainage issues, enhanced fire and police protection, and an overall increase in infrastructure spending from last year,” Courage said. “As it pertains to District 9, I am pleased that we were able to secure $1 million for our voter-approved senior center, which will fully cover the land purchase. This ensures we can fully utilize the 2017 bond funds to go entirely toward the facilities.”
In Stone Oak, the authorized FY 2019 budget added $589,000 for land acquisition and Phase 1 of the Classen-Steubing Ranch property to create the new city park on Huebner Road by Las Lomas Elementary School.
The total cost is $5.1 million for initial park development.
Funding also allocated more than a half-million dollars for the participatory budget, which includes a turn-lane expansion on northbound Wilderness Oak Road turning left onto Hardy Oak Boulevard, he added.
The turn-lane improvement was one of the community projects voted on by the public from May 29 to June 9.
District 9 neighbors picked infrastructure initiatives as part of San Antonio’s first official try at the participatory-budgeting process, which enables more people to be directly engaged in local government and choose how taxes are spent.
Residents were encouraged to propose and support local issues funded by specific allocation amounts.
Courage is also enthused about the construction of District 9’s first city-sponsored senior center.
“Negotiations have closed to purchase the land near Walker Ranch Park and I think we’re all excited to get this project started,” he said.
Courage touts the facility as vital to the district, the only political subdivision in town without one. Neighbors have also asked for the structure.
“I’ve been going to the District 10 (Northeast) Senior Center. It is very nice. I hope ours is just as nice when it is completed,” said Art Downey, chairman of the board for the Stone Oak Property Owners Association.
Jim Evetts has tried to get such a building in the district since 2016, when he served on the facilities committee for the $850 million 2017-2022 Bond Program, which voters approved last year.
“A senior center was our No. 1 priority for District 9. It’s important to give seniors a place to get out of the house,” Evetts said. “The Northeast Senior Center is a benchmark for what senior centers should look like.”
The existing $7.8 million, 26,500-square-foot structure at 4135 Thousand Oaks Drive in District 10 opened in 2015 as the first of its kind built from the ground up. It offers services for those ages 60 and older, including case management, meals, computer classes, health screenings and education, exercise sessions, social and cultural activities and volunteer opportunities.
Evetts has been pleased with the progress for the future District 9 senior center, to be erected on about 4 acres just south of Walker Ranch Park, where West Avenue intersects West Nakoma Drive.
“What we discussed was building a facility that was a senior center and nutrition center, that could also be used as a community center — a good utilization of that property,” he said. “It will have a senior-nutrition program that can accommodate 250 people for lunch.”
At 23,135 elderly inhabitants in 2016, District 9 has the largest number of folks ages 65 and older of any San Antonio City Council district, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Its total population was 179,833 for the same time period.
Evetts added many denizens citywide have the misconception all District 9 residents are wealthy and can afford health-club memberships.
“People were saying, ‘District 9 seniors are mobile. You all have deep pockets,’” he said. “I tell people, ‘You would be surprised how many people in District 9 aren’t mobile. Not everyone is wealthy.’ Some are shut-ins, some are widowed, they need a place to go to. The center will get seniors out of their sedentary environment and give them socialization.”
Evetts expects a groundbreaking in January 2020, with a 2021 opening; total cost is $13 million.
Downey was content with the city’s latest financial plan and how officials distributed funding.
“It is a reasonable budget, it adds more police, more needed infrastructure, there are projects that are beneficial to District 9,” he said.