While the city bond program is funded with public dollars, some of the projects that will receive funds are based in the private sector.

The $1.2 billion 2022 bond package will be split into six different bond propositions: streets, bridges and sidewalks; parks and recreation; drainage and flood control; housing; municipal facilities; and public safety and health facilities. 

City staff has said that the need for bond funding greatly exceeds the amount they can put toward a 5-year program, but some progress is better than none. For two months, five committees made up of citizen representatives discussed what priorities they had and finalized their project recommendations for the 2022 propositions.

The city of San Antonio funds its bond projects by taking on debt that is paid off by property tax revenue. The 2022-2027 bond program is the largest one in San Antonio history and includes big-ticket projects such as a $106 million investment in expanding the linear greenway trail system, as recommended by the parks and recreation citizens bond committee, and $19 million for a new police substation in District 3, as recommended by the facilities committee.

While those projects are city-owned and operated, some of the recommended bond projects come from outside agencies and nonprofits. Razi Hosseini, the director and city engineer of the public works department, explained that non-city organizations must show that their proposed bond projects benefit the public somehow.

“The majority of projects are public projects — roadways, parks, public buildings and others,” he said. “Some nonprofit organizations, they are providing services for the public, like the zoo, Sunken Garden and others. Places like UTSA … they have to also sign an agreement with the City of San Antonio to provide access to the public.”

K9s for Warriors is a Florida-based nonprofit that provides trained service dogs for veterans. The group applied for bond funding and had a $2.25 million investment to expand their footprint in San Antonio affirmed by a citizens committee Thursday.

The organization currently leases land from the city next to Animal Care Services and takes in shelter dogs from ACS to train. K9s for Warriors opened its first facility earlier this year and is close to capacity already, said Erin Bley, who represents the organization. It hopes to use bond funding to augment other dollars from grants and private donations.

“In order to be able to meet the needs of the list of warriors and rescue more dogs, they need to build the second phase immediately and have more office space,” Bley said. “They’re going to double their staff size and more than double the amount of dogs they can have.”

Because the land is city-owned, that helps the project qualify for bond dollars, Hosseini said. The nonprofit also pledged to prioritize local veterans, though it serves people across the country, Bley said.

Other facilities like the Tower of the Americas and Magik Theatre, which are set to receive $10 million and $2.75 million respectively, are city-owned. Even if an outside company manages the property, it qualifies for bond dollars, Hosseini said.

Most outside agencies that proposed projects for this bond cycle have gone through the process before, Hosseini said. But for those that haven’t, getting a project in front of city staff is relatively simple.

“If they do not know [how it works], they call us,” he said. “And then we tell them, ‘Go ahead and send us a letter telling us, what are you going to do? Why are you going to do it? What’s the benefit for the community?’”

The city-vetted projects were scored based on criteria such as what other funding was already committed, the access provided to jobs and services, and the feasibility of completing the project. Some of the projects that committees recommended include:

  • Improving Culebra Road from Interstate 10 to Callaghan Road, $18 million
  • Improving drainage in the Peggy Drive area of East San Antonio, $20 million
  • Constructing Hemisfair’s Civic Park Phase 2, $18 million
  • Renovating the Ella Austin Community Center, $11.5 million
  • Building a new multigenerational center at Palo Alto College, $10 million
  • General improvements for the San Antonio Zoo, $10 million

City Council will hear the committees’ recommendations in January and vote in February on the projects to put to voters.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Erin Bley’s name.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.