(SAN ANTONIO) – The Board of Directors of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) yesterday adopted a $374.4 million budget for Fiscal Year 2020/21 (FY21), a decrease of $11.5 million from the FY20 amended budget. The budget is based on a proposed tax rate of $0.01858 per $100 of property value, a rate unchanged from the current fiscal year. The approved budget, which begins on July 1, 2020, supports projects and organizational goals that advance the agency’s commitment to harmonize the needs of people and nature through our stewardship of rivers and land.
“The changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential long-term economic impacts are profound,” said Board Chairman, Darrell T. Brownlow, Ph.D. “The River Authority is adapting to these new realities, and we recognize that the expenditure of public dollars at a time of economic uncertainty requires thorough consideration and scrutiny.”
The full economic impact that will result from the pandemic is still unknown but was a significant consideration as decisions were made related to completing the FY21 budget and forecasting the impact in future fiscal years. The River Authority board approved a budget based on collecting the same amount of tax revenue as the previous fiscal year. With the district-wide property tax appraisal process still underway and property values not finalized until later in July, the board has identified projects and programs that could be delayed or eliminated should the tax revenue be less than projected in the budget.
“The economic uncertainty that has resulted from the current pandemic has been in the forefront throughout this year’s budget process. Staff reduced operational expenses in the draft budget we proposed to the board and have worked closely with the board to identify further reductions that can be made should tax revenues from the on-going protests of property values come in less than our budgeted projections,” said River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott. “Even through these challenging economic times, we continue to be committed to providing safe, clean, and enjoyable creeks and rivers.”
The top priority for the FY21 budget is to ensure that the core service mission of the River Authority is achieved. The $374.4 million budget includes a capital fund of $188.6 million which is comprised of funding from the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, and other entities and enables the completion of major construction projects managed by the River Authority. The budget also includes $70.1 million in the utility fund comprised of funding from wholesale and retail customers rates and funds daily treatment and collection system operations and major capital expansions of two River Authority wastewater treatment plants that serve fast growing areas of Eastern Bexar County. The $48.8 million general fund, supported through property tax revenues, funds the agency’s river and park operations and maintenance as well as engineering and science-based projects and programs; this includes important Floodplain Remapping throughout the basin, Predictive Flood Modeling, and Watershed Master Plans. Completing the construction and initiating operation of the Escondido Creek Parkway project in Karnes County is also a focus.
The annual tax rate must be set at the same rate throughout the River Authority’s four-county district including Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties and may only be used for planning and operations and maintenance activities. The Board of Directors will act on the final tax rate on September 16, 2020 after receipt of the final property valuations in late July. A public hearing will be held prior to adoption of the tax rate. The complete budget document is posted at sara-tx.org.