San Antonio City Hall. Photo by Scott Ball.
San Antonio City Hall. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

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As City Council prepares to discuss next year’s budget for San Antonio, City staff is looking for residents’ input and priorities.

Planning for fiscal year 2022 starts as the coronavirus pandemic lessens its hold. Bexar County’s seven-day case average has fallen to the lowest point since last June, and more than half of Bexar County residents aged 12 and older are now fully vaccinated. Though the financial hit of the pandemic may have also eased, City officials are still mindful of an uncertain 2022.

“There continue to be financial constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a Friday news release. “Feedback collected from the survey will help the Mayor and Council understand and prioritize service needs for the entire community.”

City officials furloughed 270 staffers last April and cut San Antonio’s budget by $83 million last summer in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. But Walsh said in May that San Antonio expects to end 2021 in good financial shape, and the City also expects to receive hundreds of millions in federal coronavirus recovery dollars that can be used to offset revenue lost during the pandemic.

“Two of our business areas that have been hit the hardest have been the general fund and our hotel occupancy tax (HOT) fund,” Walsh said on June 2. “We could more than account for what we have on hand with the revenue loss we’ve experienced over the last 14, 15 months.”

Budget survey results for fiscal year 2020, gathered before the pandemic, showed that respondents wanted to increase funding to streets and infrastructure, public safety, and neighborhood improvements while decreasing funding to code enforcement. That year, residents also put housing affordability as one of their top priorities. Housing affordability remained a top priority when the City gathered resident input for the 2021 budget, but during the pandemic, residents also ranked public health services and senior and youth services among their top three priorities.

The City saw a 163% increase in participation for the fiscal year 2021 survey compared to 2020. There was also a large increase in participants ages 18 to 34, but every age group older than 34 saw a decrease in participation.

“We encourage the entire community to complete the budget survey; it is one of the most important ways residents can help guide the City’s budget-making process,” Walsh said in a prepared statement. “The pandemic has brought more needs, and with budget restraints, we need input to balance the budget so that we can continue providing critical services to our residents and prioritize areas of need.”

City Council will see a draft budget on June 16 and give feedback at the end of June.

Find the survey at www.saspeakup.com, or text SASpeakUp to 55000 to take the survey on a cellphone. Both English and Spanish surveys are available. The survey closes on June 21.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.