By Ben Olivo | @rbolivo | Heron editor
The city of San Antonio’s $1.2 billion bond package, the largest in its history, passed by strong margin on Saturday.
The bond package consists of more than 182 infrastructure projects across San Antonio, including an average of $10 million to repair the worst streets in all 10 districts; the construction of two new fire stations; the addition of a new police substation; major upgrades to libraries such as the Carver Branch Library on the East Side and Las Palmas Branch Library on the West Side; and projects considered citywide such as $18 million toward Hemisfair’s Civic Park.
Around 9:30 p.m., Mayor Ron Nirenberg declared victory on Twitter.
It’s official. San Antonio voters overwhelmingly voted for a better and stronger community. All six 2022 Bond propositions will ensure a brighter future for the city we know and love.
Thank you, San Antonio. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/8Z33Gthxz2
— Mayor Ron | Get vax’d! 💪 (@Ron_Nirenberg) May 8, 2022
In a statement, City Manager Erik Walsh reminded taxpayers that 76 percent of the $1.2 billion total will go toward roads, sidewalks, flood control and parks.
“The 2022-2027 bond program is making historic investments in all areas of the community, with a major focus on neighborhoods,” Walsh said.
The bond package was presented to voters in six propositions. The last proposition, a $150 million affordable housing bond, was the first of such magnitude to be approved by San Antonio voters. It also had the smallest margin of victory, capturing 60 percent approval, compared to a 67.5 percent victory average for the other five bond segments. The housing bond will help fund the creation and preservation of apartments, while prioritizing units for households making up to 30 percent of the area median income (AMI); the production and preservation of houses; the creation of permanent housing for chronically homeless people; and job programs, most notably SA: Ready to Work.
“No matter where you live, the bond program will improve your community,” Walsh said in a press release. “The voters agreed that there is tremendous need in our community and the city is going to move quickly to make all 183 projects a reality.”
Here’s how the propositions faired:
Streets, bridges and sidewalks — 62 projects — $471.5 million
» for: 46,192 votes — 71.35%
» against: 18,544 votes — 28.65%
Drainage and flood control — 23 projects — $169.8 million
» for: 46,574 votes — 71.94%
» against: 18,166 votes — 28.06%
Parks and recreation — 82 projects — $271.9 million
» for: 41,783 votes — 64.69%
» against: 22,806 votes — 35.31%
Library and cultural facilities — 9 projects — $58.3 million
» for: 41,802 votes — 64.65%
» against: 22,854 votes — 35.35%
Public safety facilities — 6 projects — $78.2 million
» for: 41,831 votes — 65.09%
» against: 22,434 votes — 34.91%
Affordable housing — 5 funding categories — $150 million
» for: 38,566 votes — 59.79%
» against: 25,934 votes — 40.21%
Opposition to this bond package was moderate compared to the last bond election. In 2017, opponents zeroed in on $40 million for the Broadway corridor, saying it was too much money benefitting a very specific part of downtown. Any criticism of the 2022-2027 bond package, it seemed, hardly reached controversial level. One exception has been the recent controversy regarding upgrades at Brackenridge Park, part of the 2017-2022 bond package. An aspect of the plan—to remove more than 100 trees the city says is necessary in order to repair historic structures at the park—barely came to light just this year.
The housing bond was also criticized most notably by District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, who argued against the city getting directly involved in the creation of housing, which is part of what the $150 million housing bond will do. He said every possible dollar should be spent on the city’s infrastructure needs, which city officials have said exceed $6 billion. Nirenberg’s argument for the housing bond was that housing is part of San Antonio’s infrastructure. Specific housing projects will be decided, city officials say, after future public processes.
The city of San Antonio has used general obligation bonds in the past to fund large projects. But the now-familiar large-scale bond package, which the city assembles every five years, began when Sheryl Sculley was hired as City Manager in 2006. She retired in 2019.
General obligation bonds must be approved by voters because its their property taxes that are used as collateral to back the debt the city will incur. City officials say large-scale bond packages are necessary in order to improve major infrastructure needs across the city, which the annual operating budget can barely address.
[ Related: How municipal bonds work, and a brief history of them in San Antonio | April 28, 2022 ]
Bond package history
Here are glance at San Antonio’s large-scale bond packages:
» 2022-2027 bond package: $1.2 billion — voter approved
» 2017-2022 bond package: $850 million — voter approved
» 2012-2017 bond package: $596 million — voter approved
» 2007-2012 bond package: $550 million — voter approved
Source: City of San Antonio
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
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