San Antonio City Council members who dislike a plan to credit excess CPS Energy revenue back to ratepayers will seek to put the money aside for a later discussion, removing it from Thursday’s vote on the city budget.
Though budget work sessions over the past three weeks have been dominated by criticism of the plan, City Manager Erik Walsh said Wednesday it would remain a part of the city’s formal budget proposal unless amended at Thursday’s meeting.
That news confused and irritated some council members who say they haven’t yet had a chance to explore other options for the more than $80 million in surplus revenue.
“I’d presumed that we would have further meetings about that and not commit that money … until there’s a final determination by a majority of council on what should be done,” Councilman John Courage (D9) told Walsh during a budget work session.
“I would be confused and vote against a budget that included spending that money on a rebate,” Courage added.
Walsh’s rebate plan has enjoyed consistent support from Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who frames it as much-needed relief for ratepayers burdened with high bills over the unusually hot summer. Under the current proposal, residential CPS Energy customers would see an average rebate of about $29 on a future bill.
While City Council members have yet to unite around a different plan for how to spend the money, by Tuesday’s work session many had determined that the plan would give too much money back to corporate energy customers and wealthy homeowners, offering little relief for those who need it most.
The city’s proposal would determine the amount of the rebate by taking 13% of a customer’s July CPS Energy bill. For 40 large businesses whose July bills averaged $750,000, that means a rebate of roughly $100,000, according to city estimates.
“This doesn’t feel like what we as a city put forward in terms of inclusion and helping those that were the most vulnerable,” Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran (D3) said in Tuesday’s work session.
Councilman Mario Bravo (D1), who has been leading an effort to put the money toward home weatherization and other climate mitigation efforts, said council members planned to introduce an amendment Thursday removing the rebate plan from the budget vote. As of Wednesday afternoon, he said they were still working out the details of what the amendment would say.
City Attorney Andy Segovia said that while the CPS Energy revenue must be accounted for in the final budget, City Council doesn’t necessarily need a specific plan for how to spend it.
“If they want to delay conversation on the CPS revenue, what they would do is we would have a motion to amend so that that amount [of money] was parked somewhere … and that they will consider specific allocation later,” Segovia said Wednesday.
Some plans for the money already have broad support from the council.
City staff is proposing using roughly $7.5 million for a low-income utility assistance program offered by CPS Energy, something most members like.
The budget also calls for putting $10 million toward a program Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) pitched to fund projects like school climate action initiatives and incentivizing businesses to report their energy usage.
Sandoval’s plan would continue to receive funding from the city’s CPS Energy revenues in the coming years. She said that would allow the city to compete for federal grants that require the city to match funding from a consistent revenue source.
“We have been looking at the Inflation Reduction Act … and there are a lot of opportunities in there,” Sandoval said Wednesday.
“What I want to see is that the city is prepared with staff in Washington [D.C.], staff here … so that we are ready to apply and at the top of the list when the funding comes,” she said.