VISTA Volunteer Update

The Corporation for National and Community Service has awarded the City of San Antonio 10 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer positions.

AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program designed to fight poverty. Volunteers work on policy research and development projects to help build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of agencies that assist low-income communities.

Coordinated through the Department of Human Services, the City’s 10 volunteers will serve with:

  • The City’s Financial Empowerment Centers, Head Start program, and Senior Nutrition Program,
  • The Library’s Adult Digital Literacy program,
  • Metro Health’s Community Diabetes Program,
  • Pre-K 4 SA’s Parent Engagement and Outreach efforts, and
  • SA2020, helping with Opportunity Partner Management.

5 additional VISTA volunteers are planned to work with Eastpoint projects as a result of the Eastside Promise Zone designation, for a total of 15 City-coordinated VISTA members.

Recruitment for these positions will run through June and July. The positions will be posted on the City’s website, AmeriCorps VISTA outlets, and other media. Each program will interview and select their respective VISTAs, and they will begin their work assignments on August 16, serving for a full year term.

VISTA volunteers are paid a living stipend of just over $11,000 per year. The City provides 20% of this stipend as well as mileage re-imbursement and incidental expenses.

These VISTA volunteers will be a great asset to the City organization and to the community, and we look forward to welcoming them in August.

For more information on this service program, individuals can contact 207-5288.

City of San Antonio – Fiscal Year City Budget Process & Employee Healthcare Costs

Dear City of San Antonio Employee:

This letter provides an update on the Fiscal Year 2015 City Budget Process and our efforts to manage employee healthcare costs.

City department directors are developing their budget recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year beginning October 1, 2014.  Based upon current estimates, the City is facing a $27 to $34 million shortfall for Fiscal Year 2015 to maintain current service levels and without any new programs. Therefore, various strategies are being considered to achieve a balanced budget as required by law.

First, departments are being asked to prioritize their operations and provide options to reduce their budgets up to 10 percent.  Second, the Innovation Division of the Budget Department is analyzing several city services to provide recommendations that will reduce costs.  Since its creation in 2007, the Innovation Division has identified $17 million in budget savings that have been implemented.

Additionally, the Human Resources Department continues to focus on health and wellness initiatives while managing healthcare costs.  More than 1,400 civilian employees moved to the Consumer Driven Healthcare Plan (CDHP) during the 2014 open enrollment last fall, saving money for both employees and the City. Today, 60 percent of the civilian employees are embracing the City’s wellness efforts with 3,400 individuals actively participating in wellness programming.

Moreover, we continue to explore and improve healthcare plan designs with our Employee Management Committee for the civilian employees.

Incentivizing wellness among our workforce and managing rising healthcare costs are priorities of the City of San Antonio.  Managing healthcare and other benefit costs is also a major focus of our collective bargaining with the San Antonio Police Officers Association. Likewise, we anticipate focusing on healthcare costs with Local 624 of the International Firefighters Association, once collective bargaining begins.

In late May, the City Council will discuss its goals for Fiscal Year 2015. This guidance will be used to develop our City budget. We will finalize our budget preparation in July and present a balanced proposed budget to the City Council on August 7, 2014.  Budget adoption by City Council is scheduled for September 11, 2014.

Because of the City’s budget schedule, we continue to encourage Local 624 of the International Firefighters Association to begin collective bargaining soon. This would allow the City to continue to make progress preparing the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget.

Over the past seven years, we have moved to a civilian compensation philosophy of competitive wages and employee participation in the cost of healthcare similar to what is offered to public and private employers throughout San Antonio, and across Texas and the nation. We believe this is the appropriate philosophy for all our employees. We also believe wages and benefits must be fair to employees and affordable to taxpayers.

For more information about the City’s budget process, budget proposals, and meeting schedule, please go to www.sanantonio.gov and click on “Fiscal Year 2015 City Budget.”  For more information on healthcare expense alternatives and recommendations for both civilian and uniform personnel, go to the same website and click on “Healthcare & Retirement Benefits.”

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to excellence in the delivery of city services.

Sincerely,

Sheryl Sculley

VITA Update

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program – or VITA – is a nationwide, internal revenue service-sponsored program providing free income tax preparation to individuals and families earning less than $60,000 per year.

In San Antonio, the VITA program is run by a coalition of more than 30 organizations including the City’s Department of Human Services, the IRS, Catholic Charities, the United Way, and other nonprofits, financial institutions, businesses, and local colleges and universities.

This year, from January 22nd through April 15th, the coalition operated 20 VITA sites across the community, with the Department of Human Services operating 16 of these sites and a mobile team.

The latest figures from last week show that VITA San Antonio served 32,500 taxpayers, compared to just under 30,000 returns processed at this time last year.

The program returned more than $58 million in total refunds and $33 million in Earned Income Tax Credits to the community.

VITA also saved taxpayers an estimated $7.8 million in tax preparation fees, which represents a significant savings for our VITA families, who have an average annual income of $21,000.

This Tuesday, the local coalition held an end-of-season event to recognize the more than 300 volunteers who devoted time to preparing tax returns for fellow San Antonio residents.

VITA’s work will continue year-round to process current, prior year, and amended returns at the Frank Garrett VITA office. Appointments can be made by calling 207-1711

Parks & Recreation Update

The Parks and Recreation Department again is providing an extended pool season at four regional pools to provide additional opportunities for fitness and fun as the weather gets warmer.

Lincoln Pool in District 2, Heritage in District 4, Woodlawn in District 7, and Lady Bird Johnson in District 10 opened on Saturday, May 3rd, with 1,200 visitors using the pools on opening day alone.

These four pools offer open swim on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4:00pm to 7:00pm and Saturday from 1:00pm to 7:00pm. Lap swimming is available on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7:30am-9:30am. Admission is free.

For the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the four regional pools will be open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, May 24th – 26th, from 1:00pm – 7:00pm.

Swim season gets into full swing when all 24 outdoor pools open on Saturday, June 14th.

Standard pool hours are Tuesday – Sunday from 1:00pm to 7:00pm. In an effort to provide more time during the evening hours for working families, five pools are open from 2:00pm to 8:00pm.

Senior swim time, targeted for adults 60 years of age or older, is offered at San Pedro Pool from Tuesday through Friday each week from 1:30pm to 2:00pm.

Finally, to draw attention to water safety, the Parks and Recreation Department participates in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, an international event hosted by several organizations including the National Recreation & Parks Association. This year’s event will be held on June 20th. Free swimming lessons will be offered at nine pool locations as part of an attempt to make the Guinness Book of World Records.

For more information about pool locations, hours and programs, and all summer programs offered by Parks and Recreation, residents can contact the Department at 207-3000 or visit sanantonio.gov.

2014 Boston Marathon Winner Meb Keflezighi

Marathon Photo 5.14.2014_fb_IMG_4871

2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi visited City Hall and made time to take a photo with Mayor Julian Castro, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, and City staff that have participated in past San Antonio Rock N Roll Marathons.  Keflezighi is an American runner best known for his victory at the 2014 Boston Marathon.  His victory made him the first American man to win the race in 31 years.

 

Animal Care Services Update

I am happy to report in both March and April that the Animal Care Service Department reached “No Kill” status for our cat population within San Antonio. This means that ACS has been able to sustain above a 90% live release late for those two months.

The success of ACS is due to the City’s Trap Neuter Release program.  This program has created additional live outcome options for impounded cats while decreasing the number of cat impoundments. While maintaining the 90% rate will be difficult during the high intake months of summer, ACS will continue to work towards reaching their goal of “No Kill” for San Antonio.

Also, in January 2014, ACS received formal confirmation that the ACS shelter was selected as a contender in the Rachel Ray $100,000 Challenge during the months of June, July, and August of this year. The Rachel Ray Challenge will pit the performance of our Live Release efforts against 50 of the top agencies around the United States.

In 2012, ACS won the Challenge and to date, ACS is still the only municipal agency to win the Rachel Ray Challenge. If ACS is selected as the winner of the challenge this year, ACS will receive $100,000 in donations.   ACS will also be the only agency to have won the challenge a second time

The theme for this year’s challenge will be “Lost. Found. Love”. The challenge will be promoted throughout the San Antonio community at our community centers, libraries, and other well-visited neighborhood locations.  ACS will also feature the challenge through our Face Book pages and other social media efforts.

ACS will utilize a concerted teamwork approach to the challenge by enlisting the help of all local animal organizations.

Pre-K 4 SA Update

As the first Pre-K 4 SA program year comes to an end staff is preparing for the 2014-2015 school year which includes the opening of two additional centers, and increasing the total number of students served to 1,500 students.

In working with participating ISDs earlier this year, we streamlined the enrollment process for the coming school year allowing Pre-K 4 SA to control all aspects of enrollment, giving families a one-stop process to enroll in Pre-K 4 SA.

The application period began on February 24, 2014. Families have had the opportunity to complete their application online, by calling the Pre-K 4 SA Enrollment Hotline (206-PREK), or by visiting the North or South Education Center. The entire application process only takes about five minutes.

Since February 24, over 2,000 student applications for the program’s upcoming year have been submitted. Families still have time to enroll and can do so by going to www.sanantonio.gov or by calling 206-PREK.

On June 10, Staff will coordinate a lottery to select students to attend each of the four Education Centers. Shortly after the lottery, Pre-K 4 SA will send letters to families to notify them of the lottery results.

Staff Hiring
Pre-K 4 SA is aggressively recruiting remaining staff for the two new Education Centers and is proud to announce the appointment of two new Center Directors.

New Center Directors Christina Reck-Guerra and Janice Hammonds have assisted with hiring four assistant Directors for the East and West Education Centers, and have helped to select recommended candidates for the role of master teacher.

Construction
The Preparation for the upcoming year includes completion of construction on the East and West Education Centers as well as an expansion to the North Education Center. To date, the projects are all on schedule and under budget with projected completion dates prior to the start of school.

Kinder Prep & Upcoming Events
In addition to the hard work and time that staff has devoted to preparations for the upcoming school year, Pre-K 4 SA also is focused on preparing students for the transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten.

Both Education Centers will be hosting Kindergarten Transition Fairs during which they will provide parents with insight into providing continued education and preparation to their children over the summer months.

Pre-K 4 SA also will host the “Move Event with Pre-K 4 SA” on May 17. The event will incorporate fun, outdoor activities for families of current and future Pre-K 4 SA students. The event will feature Zumba, a fresh produce market and art activities among others.

The North and South Education Centers will conclude the school year with a celebratory Kindergarten promotion at the two Education Centers for all students.

Summer preparation also will include the Pre-K 4 SA Summer Reading Initiative during which Pre-K 4 SA will provide children with the opportunity to select, on their own, five books to read over the summer months. As an alternative to providing an assigned reading list, this discourages summer slide and encourages the whole family, siblings included, to actively read outside of school.

The Professional Development Team at Pre-K 4 SA also is preparing to host Summer Academies to provide San Antonio educators with new innovative techniques and ideas for the upcoming school year.

Historic Preservation Update

May is National Preservation Month and The Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) is offering numerous events and activities as part of our extensive education and outreach campaign on the Role of historic preservation in achieving economic, cultural and environmental sustainability.

Historic preservation has a demonstrated positive impact on economic development efforts in our community.  It is not simply a matter of aesthetics or quality of life, but also a tool for neighborhood stabilization and community revitalization that is connected to broader strategies of land use, smart growth, sustainability and job creation.

To kick off Preservation Month, OHP is hosting the State of Preservation Reception today at 6pm, at the Mission Branch Library overlooking Mission San Jose.  Speakers will include Assistant Secretary of the Interior Rachel Jacobson, Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. The speakers will highlight the importance of preservation to San Antonio and discuss the community’s efforts to obtain World Heritage status for the San Antonio Missions.

The list of events during Historic preservation month include.

  • A lecture by Peg Breen, President of the New York Landmarks Conservancy on May 8th, entitled “New York City Preservation: At The Pinnacle or on the Precipice.”
  • The annual Amazing Preservation Race for Adults will take place on Friday, May 9th, which is a fun adventure race for Teams.  It is a Great way to get exercise and learn about our downtown!
  • The annual Amazing Preservation Race for Kids will be held Saturday, May 17th, in the beautiful Monte Vista Historic District. This popular free event gives kids the chance to learn about history and buildings while solving clues and being active.
  • Wrapping up the month’s activities will be Preservation Day SA on Saturday, May 31st, where volunteers will complete repairs to homes in the Government Hill Historic District.

Many in the community will follow the City Council’s lead and participate in the ‘This Place Matters’ Photo Awareness campaign throughout the month of May.

Historic preservation is not about freezing time or resisting change.  It is about making careful decisions to protect our sense of place and preserve what makes San Antonio unique while supporting growth and development in our community.

For more information about all of the events and activities, visit the OHP website at www.sanantonio.gov/historic

Economic Development Update – Metro Foreign Investment Initiative

Last week, San Antonio was selected by the Brookings Institute as one of only six pilot communities they will work with to develop a foreign direct investment strategy.

The purpose of the foreign direct investment strategy is for San Antonio to develop a comprehensive and customized plan to attract foreign direct investment to our local economy which will support and grow our targeted industries.

This program is part of a broader Global Cities Initiative That the City has been participating in since September 2012. The Global Cities initiative is a 5-year, $15M project led by the Brookings Institute and JP Morgan Chase.  The Global Cities initiative aims to identify and establish strategies which will increase exports and attract foreign direct investment for the Participating thirty-one US and international communities.

San Antonio and the five other communities in this pilot program were selected from the thirty-one Communities Participating in the global cities initiative.

In September 2012, the City and our economic development partners began working with Brookings on the development of an export strategy – A comprehensive strategy to grow the number of goods and services our local economy exports to other markets and an effort to assist local firms in growing their business by reaching new markets. This export strategy was completed in October of last year and is now being implemented by the Free Trade Alliance.

Now San Antonio has been selected as one of only six communities to participate in the Foreign Direct Investment pilot program.  This demonstrates San Antonio’s growing role in the Global Cities Initiative.  This effort will create a comprehensive foreign direct investment strategy for our local economy and it will also help guide the development of Foreign Direct Investment strategies for the other cities participating in the Global Cities Initiative.

To undertake this effort, a working group has been formed under the leadership of the Economic Development Department and our key partners such as Bexar County, the Free Trade Alliance, Brooks City-Base, Port San Antonio and the Texas Governor’s Office.

The Foreign Direct Investment strategy will be completed in December 2014 and will then be integrated into the comprehensive economic development implementation plan that is being developed by the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation.

I would like to thank the Brookings Institute and JP Morgan Chase for their support and for the confidence they have placed in the City and our local economic development partners.

Library Update

The San Antonio Public Library is celebrating April’s National Poetry month with a variety of events including:  Poetry Open Mic Night at Westfall Branch Library today, April 17th at 4 p.m.  A book reading and discussion with San Antonio’s newly inaugurated Poet Laureate, Laure Ann Guerrero, on Tuesday, April 22nd at 6:30pm. Ms. Guerrero will read from her book “A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying” and discuss the art and craft of poetry.

Laurie Ann Guerrero was Named as San Antonio’s second poet laureate on April 1.   She is a San Antonio native and McCollum High School graduate, Guerrero first published a chapbook of poems in 2007.  She is a CantoMundo fellow, member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, and, for the last several years, a university teacher, affiliated with several local colleges.

The Library is also promoting a social media campaign called “PoeTweet” that encourages followers to share poems on Twitter in 140 characters or less.

In addition to National Poetry Month events, the Library also kicks off today a four-month art appreciation and history lecture series covering several eras of art history.

The ArtSmart series will be held every third Thursday at the Central Library’s Marie Swartz Art Resource Center

Future months will feature events on Mesopotamian Art, Egyptian Art, and, Greek Art

For more information about these and other events, I encourage everyone to visit the Library’s website at mysapl.org.