According to a SARA news release, the approved budget supports projects and programs that will advance the agency’s mission to sustain and enrich life in the San Antonio River Watershed.
The total budget reflects a $70.5 million decrease from the previous fiscal year reflecting the completion of the construction of the Mission Reach Project, which is funded by Bexar County and managed through SARA. While the overall budget is decreasing, SARA’s general fund budget is increasing by $1.8 million, with $1.2 million of that increase going to support the ongoing operations and maintenance on the eight-mile ecosystem restoration and recreation project. SARA also uses general fund revenue to maintain the completed Museum and Eagleland Reaches of the San Antonio River Walk.
“SARA staff presented a fiscally sound and efficient budget that effectively meets the agency’s operational and service obligations as well as community expectations,” Board Chairman, Gaylon Oehlke said. “Shifting from the Bexar County funded construction project on the Mission Reach to the SARA funded operations and maintenance exemplifies the value of public sector collaboration and demonstrates effective leveraging of public resources. Our staff expertise and funding will now be used to ensure the long-term sustainability of Bexar County’s public investment in the project.”
In addition to funding SARA’s operations and maintenance responsibilities, the approved budget allows SARA to continue raising awareness about sustainability issues, including educating the community about how land use and development planning can be done in a way that minimizes flooding and removes pollution before it reaches the river and its tributaries. SARA’s budget also includes support for programs and projects which address flood risk management (i.e. flood control) and water quality concerns throughout the agency’s four-county district. Funding to expand recreational and science-based educational opportunities throughout the district is also included in the budget in order to improve the quality of life for area residents and to educate citizens of all ages about how their actions impact surface water quality and about what they can do to improve surface water quality.
Although the overall agency budget decreased, SARA’s operations and maintenance expenditures are increasing as the agency takes on more of the Mission Reach maintenance responsibilities. As a result, the adoption of the budget for fiscal year 2013/14 includes a small increase in the tax rate from $0.017370 per $100 in property value to $0.018431. This tax rate equates to approximately $24.30 paid annually by the average homeowner, which is an estimated increase of $1.40 over the amount paid annually last fiscal year. The average homestead value in SARA’s four county district is $138,000.
SARA is authorized by the State Legislature to collect an ad valorem tax at a maximum of $0.02 per $100 of assessed value. The tax rate must be set at the same rate throughout SARA’s four-county district including Bexar, Wilson, Karnes and Goliad counties and may only be used for planning and operations and maintenance activities. The SARA board of directors will take action on the final tax rate in September after receipt of the final property valuations in July. A public hearing will be held prior to adoption of the tax rate.
A summary of the fiscal year 2013/14 total budget of $75.8 million for each of SARA’s five service areas is as follows: flood control, $33.2 million; water quality, $2.1 million; water resources, $0.9 million; utilities, $28.2 million; and park services, $11.4 million.
Among the budget highlights are:
• flood warning and response systems (all four counties);
• and Branch River Park in Goliad County.