VIA Metropolitan Transit board members voted Thursday to put the reallocation of a one-eighth-cent sales tax on the November ballot.

The one-eighth-cent sales tax currently funds aquifer protection and linear creekway trails; local officials project that revenue collection cap will be met next summer. So VIA board members will ask voters to reallocate that funding to the transit agency starting Jan. 1, 2026.

VIA board members, in their capacity as the Advanced Transportation District (ATD) board, can call for an election separately from the City of San Antonio. 

“Today we will take this opportunity to do something transformative,” VIA board Chair Hope Andrade said. “With the support from our voters, this action will have a real effect on our city or region, or transit agency, and to the community that we serve.”

VIA says the additional funding would help the transit agency strengthen and improve its service. The sales tax revenue would also go toward implementing VIA’s goals in its new strategic plan, Keep SA Moving.

The newly approved ballot measure comes after weeks of tension between the transit agency and local leaders over the future of the one-eighth-cent sales tax.

The mayor and county judge pulled their support for reallocating the one-eighth-cent sales tax to VIA in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and Mayor Ron Nirenberg pushed to use the funding for workforce development. Nirenberg’s office and VIA were able to compromise and City Council voted to put a separate sales tax reallocation proposition on the November ballot earlier Thursday. That proposition asks voters to allow the City to collect the revenue for workforce development until Dec. 31, 2025.

Trustee A. David Marne expressed concern over the proposition’s wording, which asks voters to indicate whether they are for or against “the increase by one-eighth of one percent of the local sales and use tax rate to three-eighths of one percent to begin on Jan. 1, 2026.” The San Antonio ATD currently collects a separate quarter-cent sales tax. Of those funds, VIA gets half and the rest is divided equally between the City and the Texas Department of Transportation.

VIA also collects a half-cent sales tax in most of Bexar County as the regional metropolitan transit authority, which amounts to “historic, chronic underfunding,” according to Jon Gary Herrera, VIA’s senior vice president of engagement. Austin, Dallas, and Houston collect a one-cent sales tax for transit.

VIA general counsel Bonnie Prosser Elder explained that the ballot language is constrained by state guidelines.

“Portions of the ballot are required by statute, and other portions of the ballot in discussions with the [state] comptroller’s office were identified as necessary to effectuate the collection of the tax,” she said. “And that is a very important component of this entire effort, is the ability to collect the tax.”

And the proposition does not create a new tax but simply reallocates an existing one, VIA officials stressed. 

“I repeat, no new taxes,” Andrade said.

VIA staff also updated board members Thursday on Keep SA Moving, which replaced VIA’s former plan VIA Reimagined. Kammy Horne, senior vice president of development at VIA, said the plan aims to invest more resources and increase service frequency in key corridors, explore mobility on demand, and continue planning a rapid transit system for the future.

“Advanced rapid transit was a big part of our previous VIA Reimagined plan that was developed through quite a bit of public input … and it remains a key element of our future plan,” Horne said.

If voters approve the proposition, the additional sales tax revenue will go toward bolstering VIA’s operations, including goals laid out by the Keep SA Moving plan. Andrade entreated voters to seriously consider the sales tax proposition. The San Antonio-area population has been increasing rapidly and continues to do so, and giving everyone access to transportation is crucial to not only post-pandemic recovery but growth as well, she said.

“The community has told us what we need to remain a thriving vibrant and mobile community,” Andrade said. “We know we must do better to catch up. And with this new funding, we will be able to keep up with the growth that we know is coming.”

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.