San Marcos City Council adopted the fiscal year 2023-24 budget Sept. 19, but not before various council members spoke against the budget and the subsequent fee increases it imposes onto residents.

What you need to know

The new budget has a starting balance of $97 million, which offsets the $321 million worth of expenditures; the city is slated to earn $315 million in revenue and will start the following fiscal year with a balance of $91 million.

The city's tax rate was also adopted Sept. 19 at $0.6030 per $100 valuation; the tax rate is the same as last year's but will generate almost $50 million more in revenue for the city.

However, the budget also comes with increased fees in city services for residents:
  • Electric utility services will increase by 5%, or $1.71.
  • Water, wholesale water, reclaimed water and wastewater treatment utility services will increase by 5%, or around $5.
  • The Resource Recovery program cost for residential and multifamily customers will increase by 3%, or $0.22-$0.86.
  • The Clean Community Fee will increase by 56%-63%, or $0.85-$3.50.
  • Property taxes will increase by about 15%, or $22.
The fee increases are listed as monthly costs, not annually.

What they're saying

Council members Alyssa Garza and Saul Gonzales were the two council members who voted against the budget, but others also spoke.

Council Member Shane Scott, one of the members with the most years on the dais, said the city's budget in 2010 was significantly smaller. The FY 2010-11 operating budget was $145.8 million compared to the FY 2023-24 operating budget of $321 million. Scott also noted the growth in the region since he was first on City Council.

"The growth that we're having here, I'm just one of these believers that they should be paying for our lifestyle," Scott said. "I'll vote for this budget only because I know we have to do it."

The most recent addition to the dais, Council Member Matthew Mendoza said he would support the budget out of need.

"I'm sorry the budget is what it is," Mendoza said. "I feel like I need to support this because of the responsibility we have to keep the city running."

"I think that the budget is tone deaf to the needs of San Marcos," Garza said. "At what point are we going to accept that the ways we have been managing the city are not effective in reducing homelessness, not effective in increasing job opportunities, not effective in increasing affordable housing?"

Lack of outreach is another thing Garza touched on, saying there's little engagement with the community.

"We're telling our neighbors that our wants and what we perceive are the needs of our neighbors are more important than providing relief to them," Garza said. "Our goals are largely based on what we think our neighbors want, although some of them are in direct contradiction to things we hear."

The other side

Council Member Jude Prather also brought up the goals Garza mentioned:
  • Public safety
  • Core services
  • Fiscal excellence
  • Quality of life
  • Sense of place
"This budget enhances the quality of life through our parks, our libraries, our facilities; this helps make San Marcos have a greater sense of place, this budget," Prather said.

Mayor Jane Hughson also spoke in support of the budget and all it provides to the city.

"People love the library, and they want us to have our parks. ... All of these things cost money, so I'm going to be supporting this budget, the tax rate, et cetera," Hughson said.

What's next?

While nothing could be done to make changes to the budget and the other associated fee increases, City Council will look to make changes and conduct more outreach in the future.

"Everyone who has said, 'budget means choices,' is absolutely right; so I'm going to ask my council members to hold onto [their] speeches that [they] gave tonight and give those same speeches again at our workshop in January," Hughson said. "We'll start talking about making choices and see what it is that we want to keep, see what we're willing to give up—if we are—and see where we're going to go."