SAN ANTONIO – City of San Antonio leaders are preparing a five-year, $ 1.2 billion bond program to send to voters next spring.
The projects the bond program would include have yet to be decided, but housing, streets and drainage are all about to take big chunks. But despite its record size – 41% larger than the 2017 program – the program is still overshadowed both by the demands the city has already received and by its overall infrastructure needs.
The city’s five-year bond programs are typically used to fund large construction and renovation projects, such as fixing failing streets or building new libraries. Due to a charter change approved by voters this year, the scope of what the city is allowed to include for projects has widened to include things like affordable housing.
City council members on Wednesday discussed some of their high-level priorities on what to include in the next agenda and in what areas.
City manager Erik Walsh said after the meeting his starting point was that council wanted to prioritize streets and drainage, potentially increase spending on public art, and spend $ 250 million on affordable housing.
The bond program would be divided into different categories, which voters would have to vote on individually. The six areas that city staff came up with to separate the projects included:
Streets, bridges, sidewalks
Drainage and flood control
Parks and recreation
Public security and health facilities
City staff say project requests for the bond program total $ 2.8 billion, more than double the capacity of the bond program. They came from board members, staff, community partners, government agencies and the public.
The city’s total infrastructure need, not counting housing projects, is even greater – more than five times the size of the $ 6.6 billion bond program.
Based on Wednesday’s council discussion, city staff will note which projects are requested to be included in a bond program proposal on October 13. Then the members appointed by the council of the community committees will review them.
City council is expected to approve the final list of projects in January and call a bond election in February. Voters would have the final say in the May 7 election.
Staff noted that there may be other sources of funding for certain projects – such as Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone funds or the money they received from the American Rescue Plan Act.
After the approval of Proposal A by voters in April, housing initiatives are now eligible for city bonds, and plans to maintain or create new affordable housing units could account for more than 20% of l entire bond program.
City staff say they want to preserve or produce 28,094 units over the next 10 years, mostly rental units for people earning less than 80% of the region’s median income. Of that number, 1,000 would be for permanent housing with supportive services that could help people move out of homelessness.
To support this, city staff suggested including $ 250 million in the bond program, as recommended as part of the housing policy, which also recommended an additional $ 250 million in a second program. of bonds.
“I want to stress that we need to use this money to help us meet the goals for those who are 50% AMI or less. This is where we need to use our resources. But I don’t want to fail to mention that we need all types of housing, ”Deputy City Manager Lori Houston told council members.
One of the top priorities for many residents and city council members is to fix the streets. There are 457 miles of streets in the city – nearly 11% of the city’s network – with an “F” rating, which would require around $ 915 million to process.
City staff offered to use $ 100 million in the bond program – an amount District 10 City Councilor Clayton Perry considered far too low.
“I just don’t see how we can ever get there and meet the expectations of our neighbors and our neighborhoods without investing more in our streets, which are in a lot of crappy places – I mean, really crappy streets,” , said Perry.
The city also has flood mitigation projects worth $ 671 million, although Walsh noted “obviously we can’t do it all in a five-year program.”
Council also discussed whether to increase the portion of the deposit that will go to public art, and if so, by how much. The 2017 bond program included 1% for public art, which former District 1 councilor Roberto Treviño asked the city to double last year for future investment projects.
While it never got an official vote, staff asked if council members would like to increase the public art portion of the bond program, providing comparisons to other cities. San Antonio’s 1% was the lowest of other major cities in Texas: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston, which ranged from 1.5 to 2%.
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