On Thursday, the City Council unanimously approved the proposed $1.2 billion, 2022-2027 bond package—the largest in San Antonio’s history—a vote that now puts the historic infrastructure plan in the hands of voters in the May 7 election.
The bond program represents 183 capital projects across the city, the majority of which are specific to individual districts, city officials said during the meeting.
Here is the proposed spending by bond category:
» $472 million, streets, bridges, and sidewalks (62 projects)
» $272 million, parks and recreation (82 projects)
» $170 million, drainage and flood control (23 projects)
» $150 million, affordable housing (number of projects to be determined)
» $78 million, public safety facilities (6 projects)
» $58 million, library and cultural facilities (9 projects)
It also includes $15.7 million for public art.
The package includes the city’s first housing bond. At $150 million, the housing bond would allocate $45 million toward home rehab; $40 million toward the preservation of apartments; $35 million for apartment production; $25 million toward the creation of permanent supportive housing (to serve the homeless population); and $5 million for home production. Overall, the money is to be spent for upcoming projects—to be determined after another set of public processes—focussed on low-income populations.
“While market values rise for houses, so do property taxes, and this has a disproportionate impact on those who are living on fixed low incomes,” District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia said referring to San Antonio’s thriving housing market. “If you add inflation to the equation, the cost of living keeps rising for our residents, and making ends meet proves even more difficult day by day.”
[ Editor’s note: We will break down the $150 million housing bond in a story later this week. ]
Across other parts of the bond proposal, highlights include $106.5 million toward the city’s linear greenway trails system, $18 million for Hemisfair’s Civic Park, $10 million for San Antonio Zoo upgrades, $10 million for Tower of the Americas upgrades, and, on the East Side, $12.5 million toward the Carver Branch Library, and $11 million toward the Ella Austin Community Center.
The final list of bond projects is the culmination of a series of 20 committee meetings composed of community members that ran from October through December. Some spoke before the City Council, and described the public process as being true and legitimate.
Now that the election is set for May, a campaign begins. The city will to try to convince San Antonians to vote for the bond. There has been opposition in previous bond campaigns.
“It will be up to this City Council to educate people about these projects,” District 9 Councilman John Courage said during the meeting. “It’s not our job to go out and try to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (on the bond), but it is our job to help (voters) understand what these projects mean to our community and individual districts.”
During the meeting, City Manager Erik Walsh said no tax rate increase was necessary to help pay for the bond package. Walsh and other city officials said the $1.2 billion in citywide capital improvements would be joined by $269.4 million in “leveraged funding,” including via American Rescue Plan Act, Bexar County, the Texas Department of Transportation, among other sources.
“Every single project is valuable and we hope this is an ongoing comprehensive strategy for us to tackle the infrastructure and quality of life needs of our city,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “As you heard, not everybody got everything that they wanted, but such is the nature of compromise and finding common ground.”
The $1.2 billion municipal bond package is debt the city incurs from a series of lenders—of which city property taxes are used as collateral, which is why it requires voter approval.
Heron Editor Ben Olivo has been writing about downtown San Antonio since 2008, first for mySA.com, then for the San Antonio Express-News. He co-founded the Heron in 2018, and can be reached at 210-421-3932 | firstname.lastname@example.org | @rbolivo on Twitter