The San Antonio River Authority is weighing a $256 million budget for its next fiscal year with no property tax increases.

The river authority – with a territory covering Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties – last year raised property taxes by 7.5 percent to cover its then-$222 million budget, which included updates to models and maps to predict flooding that’s been under more scrutiny since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Last year’s tax increase to 1.86 cents per $100 of assessed value brought the annual tax levied on the average property owner from $31.30 to $35.68, according to river authority staff.

If approved, that rate would stay the same next fiscal year, though expected increases in property values would bring the effect on the average property owner to $38.08, according to Rick Trefzer, the river authority’s director of support services. The river authority’s current fiscal year ends June 30.

That will bring the river authority’s estimated tax revenue from $31.3 million to $33.1 million, an increase of $1.8 million. Trefzer said that increase will help cover slightly increased personnel and project costs compared to last year, as well as continue to support specific projects the river authority has been working on for multiple years.

Taxes, penalties, and interest will make up only about 13 percent of the River Authority’s budget next fiscal year. Overall, the largest share of its funding – 38 percent – will come from Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, and other local, state, and federal governments, for whom the San Antonio River Authority often serves as a project manager or technical partner.

Its budget also includes a $25 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board for the more than $29 million expansion of the river authority’s Salatrillo Wastewater Treatment Plant, which services Converse, Live Oak, Universal City, and the Camelot subdivision. That’s one of six wastewater treatment plants the river authority has received permits for, five of which are operating now.

By far, its largest category of expenditures is capital improvements, expected to take up $137.6 million, or 55 percent, of its 2019-2020 budget. That mostly accounts for its spending of County and City money on ongoing projects, such as major overhaul of San Pedro Creek downtown.

River authority staff are also proposing more than $4.2 million for its project fund, compared to $4.9 million last year. Projects that fall into that category include floodplain mapping and flood modeling, for which it would spend more than $2.1 million in 2019-2020.

It also plans to spend $1 million on upgrades to its Guenther Street headquarters in the King William neighborhood.

The river authority’s board is expected to vote on the budget at its next meeting on June 19.

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.