Our foundation was pleased to present the “State of the City” Oct. 20 at the civic convention center. This was the eighth year that our city manager, Robert Camareno, spoke on everything city government. For me it provided a clear window as to why we will come through the pandemic stronger than many other cities.

Everyone is acutely aware of the population growth locally. Camareno showed charts that indicate we could top 100,000 by 2022. That places us No. 3 in the nation since 2010 in percentage growth. And one would assume that a pandemic would pause that growth, right? Nope. This year the city is seeing record building permits, with nearly as many as the previous record in 2017 and we had three months left in the year when the permit count was taken for the presentation!

And not only single-family home construction is doing well, but commercial is too. Camareno had “hot spot” maps that showed top areas such as Creekside, Westpointe Village, and all along I-35. No need to drive out of town any longer to find what you need. 

For our city government to continue to provide services in this environment, it takes great planning and budgeting-management. And, they are continuing to deliver the 2019 bond program projects approved by voters. That was over $143 million dedicated to things like new two fire stations and a police administration headquarters with veteran’s memorial, major street and drainage projects, the Westside Library, and an outdoor sports park. 

And if that weren’t enough, there is a pandemic underway and that means hundreds of businesses, maybe thousands, with devastating impacts. The city worked with many partners to step up the plate with funding needs, with more planned in early 2021. The newly adopted fiscal year 2020-21 city budget freezes wages for our city workers as well as caps additional positions. 

Where do our tax dollars and other fees go? Capital improvements, public safety, public works, parks & rec, library, etc. The services we need and use each and every day. Camareno also spoke about how important sales tax revenue is for these services as it makes up 31% of general fund revenues. Once again, when the pandemic was in the early stages most assumed that we’d be facing a huge deficit in this area. However, year to date the city is seeing higher figures than last year.  That signals some very strong underpinnings of our local economy as well.

More specifically on bond projects, we have already seen or will see street and or sidewalk work on such streets as California Blvd, Oak Run sidewalks, San Antonio Street, Kerlick, Lakeview Blvd, Union Street, Comal Ave, Grant Ave, South Street, and in the Lamar Elementary area. The Comal Cemetery Wall Stabilization project is well underway as are all-abilities park additions at Landa Park and Morningside. Fire Stations #1 & #2 will be constructed by Seidel Construction (a great example of buying local!) and the new Police Station and Veteran’s Memorial is out for bid. 

I’d say the State of the City is very promising, thanks in large part to a resilient economy that provides the funds for a great place to live, work, and play. As I wrap up my second and final year as Economic Development Foundation Chairman, it’s been an honor to be a partner with the community to help sustain and grow this economy.

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