San Antonio City Council passes $2.9 billion budget, no ‘de-funding’ of SAPD

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio City Council passed a $2.9 billion budget Thursday that makes very few changes to the San Antonio Police Department, over the strong objection of activists.

Despite anticipating lower revenues because of the COVID-19 pandemic, city staff say the budget, which is $4.4 million less than FY 2020, is balanced and will not require any city layoffs or tax increases. The San Antonio Police Department’s general fund budget will increase more than $7 million over the FY 2020 budget to roughly $486.5 million, largely due to a scheduled, 5 percent pay increase for officers.

More than 20 people called into the online meeting to urge council members to de-fund police, invoking the names of Darrell Zemault Sr. and other black men killed by SAPD officers. Funding for the department should be directed to other areas, they argued, away from a department they don’t believe truly serves the community.

“We all understand that budgets are moral documents, and the reality is the biggest piece of the pie that is the budget goes to law enforcement,” said Karen Munoz. “And law enforcement – as we’ve seen countless times – continues to abuse our community, especially black people in this community.”

The only new change to the proposed police budget, which activists called a “slap in the face” when it was unveiled in August, was the elimination of $739,500 in police cadet hiring bonuses, which City Manager Erik Walsh said were unnecessary given the current strength of the department.

City officials have pointed out that 79 percent of the SAPD budget is tied to the collective bargaining agreement it has with the San Antonio Police Officers Association, while the remaining portion funds things like the 911 communications center, technical support, and facility maintenance.

Both city staff and elected officials have tried to show they are still pursuing changes to the police department. Walsh has proposed a months-long review of SAPD and its functions, including possible alternatives. However, that would not conclude until next spring.

City leaders have also put their focus on renegotiating the police union contract, which will expire after September 2021. The contract contains measures that opponents say keep officers from being held accountable for wrongdoing.

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Read More: San Antonio City Council passes $2.9 billion budget, no ‘de-funding’ of SAPD

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