San Antonians may have the lowest per capita incomes among America’s 10 most populous cities, but its citizens have demonstrated they are among the wisest stewards of taxpayer money.
This week, election officials certified the passage of three ballot measures that will help the nation’s seventh largest city provide cutting-edge job training, public transportation to their new jobs and quality pre-kindergarten programs for their kids.
City and Bexar County leaders pitched the bond package as a COVID-19 relief package, but that’s not quite right. The Greater San Antonio area desperately needed these investments in the future long before the coronavirus struck and will benefit long after the disease lives on only in history books.
If only every city in Texas city would make such investments in its people.
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Mayor Ron Nirenberg campaigned hard for the first bond, which will use $154 million to provide job training or college degrees to 40,000 people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The investment cannot come quick enough for those laid off from tourism-related jobs that might not come back for two years or more.
The community has no time to lose. San Antonio’s per capita income was $25,091 in 2018, compared to $31,576 in Houston or $40,391 in Austin.
San Antonio’s public transportation authority, VIA, will receive 1/8 of a cent from existing sales tax revenues. The new revenue stream will help VIA match federal funds to upgrades routes, technology and equipment to help decrease reliance on personal automobiles.
Lastly, San Antonio also voted to continue leading the nation with its innovative early childhood education known as Pre-K 4 SA. Over eight years, the program has proven it can boost test scores, increase teacher training and improve student health.
San Antonians understand that investing in their people and infrastructure is the wisest way to boost the economy. San Antonio’s economy and home prices have all increased as dozens of companies decide to locate in Bexar county.
Moody’s, which rates the creditworthiness of cities, states and counties, approved of the job training program, saying: “Increased employment and higher salaries will boost residents’ purchasing power and ultimately lift sales tax revenue, one of the city’s largest revenue sources.”
Houstonians should take note.
The Legislature passed a law requiring all districts to offer universal access to full-day pre-K by 2023. But lawmakers made state funding for pre-K discretionary, which means they can cut it next year to meet budget goals.
More than 10,000 students still do not have access to pre-K in the Houston Independent School District, and programs remain short of qualified teachers. San Antonio’s dedicated funding sets it apart.
HISD also failed again to put any bond measure on the ballot. The district has not asked voters for infrastructure or technology improvements in eight years. Instead, the HISD school board has spent its time in petty political squabbles or answering federal agents’ questions about corruption.
Earlier this year,