San Antonio Invites Citizens to Balance Budget with Flawed Tool

“Voters cannot hold internet surveys accountable, but they can hold their elected representatives accountable,” Rodriguez advises.

San Antonio Invites Citizens to Balance Budget with Flawed Tool

Ed. Note: San Antonio Tea Party published a related story about this horribly slanted survey presented to San Antonio citizens as a way to send feedback about future expenditures. See RELATED STORY HERE. This is a slap in the face from San Antonio leadership; it brings to mind a phrase from a few years ago, “They Think We’re Stupid.”


 Republished from Watchdog.org, Texas Edition, by Kenric Ward, April 29, 2016.  Image credit: Photo courtesy of Alteza

DOWNTOWN MIRAGE: A downtown minor-league baseball stadium, shown here in an artist’s rendering, is projected to cost up to $75 million. But like other projects, the ballpark is missing from San Antonio’s budget-balancing website.

Already $10.5 billion in debt and spending more than ever, San Antonio City Hall is asking citizens to balance the 2017 municipal budget.

“The city’s budget is a reflection of the community’s priorities. Your feedback is critical to balancing the budget and determining where funds should be allocated,” the city announced on a new interactive website, Speak Up San Antonio.

But local activist George Rodriguez dismissed the budget-balancing tool as “the latest example of smoke and mirrors” — with a lot of missing pieces.

Ray Wilkinson, a local tea party member, tried Speak Up San Antonio and called it “slanted.”

“The options to answer are very narrow,” he said. “It will end up giving the city what it wants.”

The city’s outreach comes as homeowners are receiving record high property tax appraisal notices.

Speak Up San Antonio is hardly comprehensive. It makes no reference to Councilman Roberto Trevino’s $100,000 downtown toilet, a venture that Watchdog.org reported will cost many times that amount.

Nor does the site mention, or price, the city’s unprecedented plans to expand Spanish translation services. Says Trevino, in English: “This is about respect and dignity.”

And the much-debated downtown baseball stadium, with an estimated cost of $60 million to $75 million? Nowhere to be found.

RELATED: NFL remembers to forget the Alamodome

Rodriguez says Speak Up San Antonio’s facile attempt at inclusiveness and democracy has the opposite effect.

“The problem with this survey is that it lets elected officials off the hook. They can claim ‘the community has decided’ to spend money on this or that while ignoring the will of the people who elected them,” he said.

The survey also employs selective wording to guide the uninitiated. When asking what programs government should spend more on, it uses the term “investment.” When asking about cuts, it uses “funding.”

While everything is said to be on the table, council members aren’t about to give back what voters ratified for them last year: a 4,296 percent pay raise. You read that right: Salaries went from $1,040 to $45,722 in one year.

During that period, the council approved a $2.5 billion city budget – up $100 million from the year before.

sculleyBio_optRISING: San Antonio’s debt has risen 16 percent under City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s watch.

Under City Manager Sheryl Sculley’s watch, San Antonio’s tax-supported debt has risen 16.1 percent, to $1,494,770,000, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

All told, the city carries $10.5 billion in debt – five times more than the annual budget.

Meantime, Sculley has become the highest paid city manager in Texas, with a 2016 compensation package of $486,640. That’s up 94.6 percent from her beginning base salary of $250,000 in 2005.

The manager’s pay and perks, along with the council’s $7 million budget, may be low-hanging fruit for cost cutters. Just don’t count on Speak Up San Antonio to pluck them.

“Voters cannot hold internet surveys accountable, but they can hold their elected representatives accountable,” Rodriguez advises.

Kenric Ward reports for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at kward@watchdog.org and @Kenricward.


Republished from Watchdog.org. CLICK HERE to read the original.


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