Fire­fight­ers union starts air­ing new ad

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Metro - By Josh Baugh STAFF WRITER

In the midst of a bat­tle to push its three city char­ter amend­ments across the fin­ish line, the San An­to­nio Pro­fes­sional Fire­fight­ers As­so­ci­a­tion be­gan air­ing a 30-sec­ond spot this week that claims City Hall in­creased taxes an­nu­ally over the past six years.

The ad backs into the state­ment in a one-two punch that leads with the union’s fa­vorite tar­get, City Man­ager Sh­eryl Scul­ley.

“How can San An­to­nio af­ford to pay the city man­ager more than the pres­i­dent and gov­er­nor com­bined?” a voice queries. “They raised your taxes the last six years in a row.”

A photo of Scul­ley flashes on the screen, su­per­im­posed atop images of the White House and the Texas Capi­tol as $100 bills fall from the sky. Then, a mock news­pa­per head­line de­clares: “CITY HALL RAISED TAXES 6 YEARS IN A ROW.”

Scul­ley’s base salary is $475,000. The pres­i­dent is paid $400,000 and the gov­er­nor $150,000, for a to­tal of $550,000. Scul­ley, on top of her base pay, col­lected a $75,000 bonus for 2018, bring­ing her over­all com­pen­sa­tion to $550,000.

“The ad is bla­tantly wrong,” said Jeff Coyle, the city’s di­rec­tor of Gov­ern­ment and Pub­lic Af­fairs. “The city has not raised the prop­erty tax rate in 25 years, in­clud­ing the en­tirety of City Man­ager Scul­ley’s 12-year ten­ure. In fact, she has rec­om­mended — and the City Coun­cil ap­proved — re­duc­ing the tax rate four times.”

Stephen Moody, the union’s sergeant-at-arms, de­fended the ad.

“Have they raised your taxes? Yes,” he said. “Have they raised the rate? They didn’t have to tech­ni­cally raise the rate. At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s a bald-faced lie. Peo­ple’s (prop­erty) val­ues go up, and so their taxes go up.”

Moody, who was in­stru­men­tal in the union’s ef­fort to kill plans for street­cars in San An­to­nio sev­eral years ago, has been one of the union’s most vis­i­ble ad­vo­cates for the char­ter amend­ments.

Moody said the union ad strikes at the meat of the prop­erty tax is­sue — that peo­ple have seen their tax bills in­crease.

Tax bills have gone up in re­cent years as prop­erty val­ues in San An­to­nio have risen.

Eighty per­cent of prop­erty tax rev­enue goes to en­ti­ties other than the city of San An­to­nio, in­clud­ing Bexar County and health and col­lege dis­tricts.

The city has no con­trol over val­u­a­tions set by the Bexar Ap­praisal Dis­trict.

“The ar­gu­ment to that,” Moody said, “is the city had the abil­ity to say, ‘Yeah, you know what? They raised your val­u­a­tion — I’m gonna go ahead and drop your rate.”

Chris­tian Archer, who runs the op­po­si­tion Go Vote No cam­paign, said he wasn’t sur­prised by the fire union’s ad.

“It’s kind of more of the same — no real facts, mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion, try­ing to win over the pub­lic with un­truths,” he said. “They’re just try­ing to mis­lead the pub­lic, and they’re do­ing it with a splashy tele­vi­sion ad.”

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