Tuesday, December 21, 2010

City of San Antonio's 2010 Year in Review: A City of Opportunities. A Future of Possibilities.

The City of San Antonio has released its 2010 Year in Review, which highlights many exciting changes that took place in our community during this past year. As you will see, San Antonio continues to move forward in the face of a challenging national economy. This year’s report highlights impressive gains we have made in our local economy, and reinforces why our City continues to thrive and attract major businesses to our community. I am excited about the progress we have made in 2010 and look forward to a bright future for our City.

I invite you to read the report by clicking on the following link:


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Positive change marked last five years at City Hall

On my five year anniversary as City Manager, I want to share with you some accomplishments and why I believe the future is bright with opportunity for our city. With the support of Mayor Phil Hardberger, Mayor Julian Castro, and three city councils, it has been five years of positive change to improve the business of city government.

In 2005, I began my tenure by engaging with residents, neighborhood associations, business representatives, special interest organizations, and numerous individuals who gave me their perspectives on city services and programs. The community input and policy guidance from the city council provided a framework for our transformational mission.

We have recruited excellent talent, strengthened the city’s financial management, improved city business practices, increased much needed police and fire services, and in 2007 approved the largest bond program in city history.

Today, more than 100 of the 150 streets, drainage and parks bond projects are completed or under construction. The balance will be substantially finished by May of 2012 as promised.

We have balanced five city budgets while reducing city property tax rates, increasing general fund financial reserves from 3% to 9%, and reducing waste through efficiencies, technology and some good old-fashioned house cleaning.

In 2008, the city’s general obligation bond rating was upgraded to AAA, the highest possible rating and a first for the City of San Antonio. Our AAA rating was re-affirmed in 2010, this time by the three major financial rating services. Of the largest cities in the United States, San Antonio is the only one to have three AAA ratings.

Without a single layoff in five years, we eliminated 1,000 city positions and added 450 new police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel. We have also increased spending for streets and sidewalks.

We have recruited local and national executive talent to lead our city departments. These 34 diverse individuals with exceptional experience and education are committed to serve the San Antonio community.

Today, city government is more transparent, more professional and focused on results. City council agendas are available to the public on the city’s web site in advance of meetings. Budget hearings are conducted annually in all 10 council districts to explain staff recommendations and obtain community input. The annually adopted infrastructure maintenance program provides residents with a five year schedule of street, drainage, sidewalk, and alley improvements.

We successfully automated single family residential garbage collection for 340,000 homes resulting in less cost, fewer injuries, and better wages for the automated truck drivers. We have tripled the amount of recycling from 6% to 18%.

Through our Pathways to Zero Waste strategic plan, our city council approved goal is to recycle 60% of our waste stream by 2020.

In partnership with the business community, we reorganized our economic development efforts by reducing costs and focusing on targeted industries and attracting higher wage jobs to San Antonio. Our new economic development model focuses on investment with a return rather than cash subsidies.

With council support of the newly created Centro Partnership, we are centered on redeveloping downtown San Antonio and our inner city neighborhoods. With partner organizations plans are underway for a streetcar system, more housing, Hemisfair Park redevelopment, a downtown grocery, and an expanded UTSA campus.

With the support of our Tourism industry, we reorganized our Convention and Visitors Bureau, designed and launched our “Deep. In the Heart” brand, and have increased the number of tourists and business visitors despite the recession.

We are fully engaged in Mayor Castro’s SA2020 community visioning process, the outcomes of which will prioritize public policy issues and future projects.

And, our customer service ratings are up! We completed city-wide community surveys in 2008 and 2010 asking residents to evaluate city services. We are using the data to further city improvements.

My continued thanks to our city employees and the San Antonio community for supporting me over the past five years. May the next five years be even more productive and exciting!

Friday, August 13, 2010

District Hearings provide residents an opportunity to comment on FY 2011 Proposed Balanced City Budget

On Thursday, August 12, the FY 2011 Proposed Balanced Budget was presented to the Mayor and City Council. San Antonio residents are invited to provide their comments by attending community hearings in each City Council District, beginning Monday, August 16. Councilmembers and City staff will be available at the community hearings to answer questions from participants. A link of the schedule for the community district budget hearings is provided below. All hearings will begin at 6:30 pm. We look forward to hearing from our citizens on the proposed budget.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

City makes improvements in service delivery to residents

The City of San Antonio conducted its second Community Survey in April of 2010 through an independent consultant, ETC Institute, and the survey results indicate that we are moving in the right direction by raising City service delivery satisfaction levels in our community. In 2008, the City conducted its first-ever city-wide Community Survey with the overall purpose of gauging residents’ satisfaction with City services. The 2010 survey allowed us to benchmark the 2008 survey results to help us identify areas in which we can improve as an organization.

The 2010 survey results will be very important, as we prioritize City projects, measure the effectiveness of existing programs, continue to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and work on increasing levels of satisfaction in areas where improvements are needed over the next two years.

The survey results indicate that residents are very satisfied with many of our core City services, like Fire and Emergency Medical services, Library services, Solid Waste services and the 311 Customer Service phone line. Residents are also very pleased with City employee customer service. Improvements in this area can be attributed to the investments the City has made in providing comprehensive ethics training across our organization, which has been on-going for the past four years. Our efforts to increase the skill set of employees and professionalize the organization have also had an impact on improving the quality of services we provide to the residents of San Antonio.

As background, the survey was offered to a random, stratified sampling of residents within each of the City’s ten City Council Districts by traditional land lines and cell phone numbers in both English and Spanish. In addition to the 2010 survey results, ETC Institute also conducted a 2008-2010 Benchmarking Analysis, provided comparisons to the National Average (San Antonio was compared to results of a survey conducted by ETC in April 2010 of U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or more) and comparisons to Cities of Similar Size (Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis and Kansas City, Missouri).

Some of the major findings of the 2010 Community Survey results are indicated in the following table:

Major City Services 2010 vs. 2008
Percent rating as “satisfied” or “very satisfied”

**Solid Waste Management and Animal Care Services conducted separate independent surveys in 2008.

The results also indicated that residents’ overall opinions of San Antonio are favorable:

Perceptions of the Community 2010 vs. 2008
Percent rating as “satisfied” or “very satisfied”

**The question was not asked in 2008.

City services that most improved since 2008 included: the percentage of residents who felt the City’s 311 Service was “very easy” to use (16% increase); resident satisfaction with code enforcement (15% increase); satisfaction with street repair (11% increase); and satisfaction with the responsiveness of City employees (10% increase).

The consultant provided the City with the following conclusions and recommendations:

  • San Antonio is setting the standard for the delivery of City services. Compared to other large cities, San Antonio ranks above average in almost every category, and satisfaction with the overall quality of City services rated 18% above the national average.

  • The City of San Antonio is definitely moving in the right direction. The overall results for San Antonio increased significantly while the results for most other communities decreased significantly. There was only one significant decrease in a City service, which is the City’s on-line payment programs (-6%).

  • If the City wants to improve overall City services ratings, the City should continue to emphasize improvements in Public Works, Police and Neighborhood Services. Although the City’s investments in all three areas are working, residents continue to place a high priority in these services.

The results are available in both English and Spanish through the City’s website (www.sanantonio.gov) and a complete set of results are available at each City library. A summary of the results will be included in the City’s community newsletter, Dotgov, and available to residents by calling the Department of Communications and Public Affairs.

Although there were positive findings and incremental improvements indicated in the 2010 survey results, there are opportunities for City departments to improve. In some service areas, we are continuing to maintain high levels of satisfaction, like in Fire/EMS. In other service areas, our ratings need to be at a higher level of satisfaction for our residents. Following the communication of the survey results, City staff will analyze the results and develop plans for service improvement for areas such as on-line payment opportunities.

In summary, the Community Survey conducted on a biennial basis provides feedback from our residents, allowing us to prioritize our investments in City services.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Days - A time to get outdoors

Summer is here and with it are many opportunities to maintain a healthy balance between our work and personal lives. Our Health and Wellness Strategic Plan includes several initiatives we can take advantage of to prepare for several community health events later this year.

Training for the Rock-N-Roll San Antonio Marathon and ½ Marathon has begun. A six month training program, conducted by Run Gear Run, is designed for walkers, joggers, beginning runners, and long-time runners. This is the 4th year this training has been offered to City Employees and it is a great opportunity for those who just want to get back into shape or start a fitness program. Online registration for the Rock-N-Roll Marathon closes on November 7th. City of San Antonio Employees receive a discount on registration. The race sells out so be sure to register early. Visit www.sanantonio.gov/hr/employee_information/wellness for more information.

Training can also prepare you for the City Manager’s Wrap Up the Year in Good Health 5K Run/Walk scheduled for Saturday, December 11 at Brackenridge Park. Details on this event will be available later in the year. I look forward to seeing many of our employees at our annual event!

On June 17, 2010, City Council approved the establishment of a bicycle sharing program to augment alternative and “active” transportation choices in the downtown area. This program, funded with stimulus funds through the Department of Energy and Centers for Disease Control, is coordinated by our Office of Environmental Policy in partnership with Bike World. Bikes used for this program will be equipped with the capability to track mileage, calories burned, as well as carbon offsets. Contact Julia Diana, Office of Environmental Policy, at 207-6321 for more information.

Summer is also a great time to enjoy our city parks with your family. Many of our parks are equipped with playground equipment, multi-purpose play fields, outdoor education areas and other amenities. Additionally, many of our parks include multi-purpose trails to use as part of your marathon training or daily exercise, including our new park, Phil Hardberger Park, which features 1.7 miles of trails and a 1.8 acre dog park.

I also encourage you to visit our city pools where you can strengthen your heart and lungs while enjoying relief from the summer heat. Pools offer the opportunity for swimming lessons for all ages at a low cost, water aerobics, and swim teams for youngsters. It’s a great way to burn calories, build muscle, and relieve stress. Visit the Parks and Recreation Department website at www.sanantonio.gov/sapar for more details on park and pool hours and scheduled activities.

The health and wellness or our employees and families is important to me. Participating in outdoor recreational activities and taking advantage of the many initiatives of our Health and Wellness Strategic Plan is a great way to maintain your health and fitness.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Participation is key to developing City budget

The Five Year Financial Forecast, which was presented to the City Council on May 12, kicked-off the FY 2011 Budget process. For the FY 2011 Budget process, the City faces many of the same challenges we faced in FY 2010 - declining revenues and additional expenditure requests. In the FY 2010 Budget, we were able to overcome these challenges and adopt a budget that reduced expenditures by $19 million through efficiencies and a reduction in administrative overhead. The FY 2010 Budget focused on service priorities critical to the City’s local economic recovery and the commitment to provide high quality services to improve the lives of residents. With these focus areas and strong financial management strategies, the City has been able weather the economic storm and maintains a solid financial position for the development of the FY 2011 Budget.

The Budget Goal Setting Session was held on May 18 with the Mayor and City Council to obtain guidance from Council on City services and financial policies that guide the development of the budget. As a result of this meeting, the City Council supported the recommendations to 1) maintain the City’s Budgeted Financial reserves at 9% of General Fund appropriations, 2) allow some flexibility in achieving a two-year Balanced Budget in light of the current local economic conditions, and 3) maintain the City’s Property Tax Rate at the current level for FY 2011. Additionally, the results of the City Services Ballot were reviewed and Infrastructure and Public Safety emerged as top priorities.

With input and feedback from the Mayor and City Council, City staff has begun to prepare budget recommendations. In July, I will meet with City Departments to develop a balanced budget that reflects the Mayor and City Council’s policy guidelines and service priorities while maintaining a strong financial position. I will present the FY 2011 Proposed Operating and Capital Budget to the Mayor and City Council on August 12, 2010.

The City encourages residents and City employees to participate in the budget development process. City employees can be involved in the budget process in several different ways to include utilizing a Budget Input Box and the Frontline Focus Initiative. Employees can submit budget ideas and suggestions through the Budget Input Box available online and in paper format in English or Spanish. Input boxes also can be found at all City facilities to include libraries and Community Link Centers. The Frontline Focus Initiative will provide City staff the opportunity to identify process improvements for consideration during the development of the proposed Budget. Over the past three years, more than 500 employees in all departments have participated in the Frontline Focus process.

Following my FY 2011 Proposed Budget presentation in August, citizens can provide input on the budget at District Community Budget Hearings to be scheduled within each City Council District. Community and employee input is an important part in creating a budget that meets the needs of the residents and I look forward to hearing from citizens and employees throughout the development of the budget.

The FY 2011 proposed Budget will be considered by the Mayor and City Council for adoption on September 16. As we move forward to adopt a balanced budget, I encourage each of you to continue to provide your input on how we can work together to provide quality services to the community.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

AAA Bond Ratings

On Monday, June 7th, the City of San Antonio presented to the three national bond rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s; Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. (“Moody’s”) and Fitch Ratings (“Fitch”), to receive updated bond ratings for the City’s bond sales which were priced the week of June 14th. I am pleased to report that the San Antonio’s ‘AAA’ general obligation bond rating was reaffirmed by all three rating agencies. The ‘AAA’ bond rating is the highest rating that a City can receive.

Of the top ten largest cities in the United States, San Antonio is one of only two cities that have a “AAA” rating and the only city to have a ‘AAA’ rating from all three major rating agencies. Standard & Poor's upgraded San Antonio in October 2008 and Fitch and Moody's assigned a ‘AAA’ as a result of a re-calibration process in which their credit ratings of U.S. municipal securities were adjusted to conform to their respective global ratings scales.

In reaffirming the ‘AAA’ bond rating, the rating agencies cited San Antonio’s diverse economy, strong financial management policies, strong and healthy financial position, sound financial reserves, long-term debt planning, and overall debt management.

This high credit rating allows the City to lower our cost of borrowing for capital projects, enhances our ability to access the financial markets in difficult market conditions, and helps us build future financial capacity for the many needed capital improvements for our community.

Additionally, on June 15th, the City issued, in total, $248.3 million in bonds and included:
$191.5 million in Build America Bonds (Taxable Bonds)
$8.8 million in Tax-Exempt General Obligation Bonds
$38.4 million in Tax-Exempt Certificates of Obligation
$9.6 million in Tax-Exempt Tax Notes

This bond sale represents the first time the City has issued Build America Bonds or “BABs”. BABs were created by the United States Congress in 2009 to provide economic stimulus by expanding the investor base for municipal debt, resulting in a lower cost of borrowing. BABs enable cities to issue debt and receive a federal tax subsidy (equal to 35% of their interest expense for BABs issued prior to January 1, 2011) as an alternative to traditional tax-exempt debt. This bond sale also represented our third installment of bonds for the 2007 Bond Program as well as funding for other projects in our Capital Budget.

Our City’s financial management is strong and committed to keeping us economically competitive, while growing a healthy General Fund financial reserve over the past five years.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vision San Antonio

I invite you to view a new television program on our City’s Government Access Channel, TVSA, called Vision San Antonio. This new program highlights City-related topics and events that are taking place in our community.

Our first program centers on the City’s new Eastside Reinvestment Initiative. This Initiative is a break through City enterprise that benefits eastside residents, business owners, and the San Antonio as a whole. The Eastside Reinvestment Initiative focuses on a range of topics, including stimulating economic development opportunities, neighborhood revitalization and improved neighborhood safety.

Highlights of the program include a discussion with District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor regarding the objectives and early accomplishments of the Eastside Reinvestment Initiative. In addition, Mayor Julian Castro provided a message to the community regarding his commitment to revitalizing the Eastside of San Antonio. Police Chief William McManus and San Antonio Police Captain Mark Witherell provided a progress report on the City’s coordinated efforts between Police, Code Compliance Enforcement and Animal Care Services in the corridors and target areas of the Initiative.

You can view Vision San Antonio on Monday's at 1:00 p.m., Wednesday's at 7:30 p.m., Friday's at 8:30 a.m. and immediately following the replay of the City Council meetings on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Quarter Financial Report

On March 4, 2010, I presented the City’s First Quarter Budget & Finance Report, also known as the Three Plus Nine Budget & Finance Report. The report provides a summary of the First Quarter financials and a preliminary outlook for the General Fund in Fiscal Year 2011. The Fiscal Year 2010 Budget is balanced.

General Fund

General Fund revenues are mostly flat for the First Quarter, but slightly favorable due to higher than expected CPS revenues. Sales tax revenues are down by $900,000, while Property tax revenues are on budget. The City saw favorable CPS revenues due to the cold weather in San Antonio during the winter months and higher than anticipated Natural Gas Prices. Overall expenditures are within projected amounts through the First Quarter.

The Three Plus Nine Report also provides a preliminary outlook for the General Fund in FY 2011. This outlook identifies budget challenges we will need to work through during the FY 2011 budget development process. City staff has been evaluating FY 2011 revenue projections since the beginning of FY 2010. Projections are showing a negative outlook with potential declines in Property Tax and Sales Tax revenues ranging from $12.5 Million to $22.3 Million. Looking ahead to FY 2011, uncertainty in the economy in FY 2010 remains a concern for future revenue projections. Budget and Finance staff will continue to monitor and refine projections for the Five Year Financial Forecast to be presented to City Council in late April.

Enterprise & Restricted Funds

The Three Plus Nine Report also provides an overview of the financial condition of the City’s other funds. These funds are not supported by Property Tax revenues. The financial condition of these funds is favorable with a few exceptions. The Planning & Development Services fund and Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund have experienced declining revenues in the First Quarter and are predicted to continue to decline. The Planning & Development Services fund has been impacted by the slowing of residential and commercial permitting activity. Revenues from residential and commercial permitting activity are projected to be $2.1 Million below the FY 2010 planned amount. Cost containment measures have already been enacted including freezing certain vacant positions. The Planning & Development Services Department is meeting or exceeding its performance goals and the cost containment measures are not projected to impact these service levels. Hotel Occupancy Tax collections are projected to be 12% below the FY 2010 Adopted Budget. A deficit reduction strategy has been developed to cope with this decline. Revenues in the Solid Waste Services, Storm Water Operations, and Airport Operating Funds are favorable.

Budget and Finance staff will continue to monitor revenues and expenditures in preparation for the 2nd Quarter Financial Update scheduled for April.

You can visit the City of San Antonio Office of Management and Budget website at http://www.sanantonio.gov/budget/financialreports.asp to view the complete FY 2010 Three Plus Nine Budget and Finance Report.