SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – San Antonio voters will decide in November whether to use sales tax money for workforce development. The city council on Thursday approved placing a 1/8-cent sales tax for job training and college education initiatives on the November ballot.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg noted that an estimated 160,000 residents have applied for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many were earning less than $22,000 a year.
“All but a few lack a post-secondary education or training certificate that is a requirement in most jobs that pay a living wage,” said Nirenberg.
City Councilwoman Adriana Rocha-Garcia broke into tears as she talked about relatives with underlying illnesses who have died after contracting COVID-19. She said a program like the one going before voters in November could have provided better access to health care and quality of life.
“Perhaps an opportunity like this for skills training, certifications, and other academic degrees would have led to a family-sustaining wage job that would have kept my cousins from developing the underlying health conditions that they had, including diabetes and hypertension,” said Rocha-Garcia. “Perhaps, they would have had a better chance of surviving, but here we are, a family mourning the loss of six of its members–six lives lost in six weeks.”
Councilmen Roberto Trevino and Clayton Perry voted against the proposal. Perry said there are far too many questions about the workforce development program and he couldn’t support “writing a blank check.” He said his constituents in District 10 also are concerned about redirecting the 1/8-cent sales tax that was previously authorized by voters for protection of the Edwards Aquifer and linear creekway parks. He also said more money should be allocated for business owners who were affected by the pandemic.
“While workforce development is a wonderful opportunity for those who are interested, it is not the shot in the arm that San Antonio needs presently. Our neighbors and business owners need assistance now, not years from now,” said Perry.
City Manager Erik Walsh told the council that staff has been working on a proposal to shift aquifer protection to the San Antonio Water System, which Perry said could result in a rate increase for SAWS customers. Walsh also noted that Bexar County would take over linear creekways, but Perry argued that the plan would just shift the burden to taxpayers.
Rocha-Garcia responded by saying that residents in District 4 don’t have the luxury of deciding whether to have linear creekways when they’re worrying about putting food on the table.
The 1/8-cent sales tax proposal will be on the ballot November 3.