Year: 2017

We’re an open book: Your City government, by the numbers

In late April, the Texas Comptroller awarded the City of Round Rock a Transparency Star in recognition that we provide easy online access to spending and revenue information.

We’ve got a one-stop shop on our website for basic financial data and reports. You can find links to detailed information on things like quarterly investment reports or simply check out a bar chart showing how the City property tax rate has changed from 2012 to 2016. (Spoiler alert: it’s less than a half cent.)

If you’re really into numbers, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is a detailed report of the  City’s finances and includes the independent auditors’ opinion. (Spoiler alert:  the City always receives an unqualified or “clean” opinion.) Auditors spent nine weeks on site – a total of 1,051 hours – and evaluated hundreds of transactions. This report provides a quantitative look at the operating success, financial health, and compliance of the City. It includes a Statement of Net Position, Statement of Activities, Balance Sheet, a Statement of Revenues, Expenditures, and Changes in Fund Balances, and a comparison of budgeted to actual expenses and revenues.  The Statistical Section near the back of the document provides a treasure trove of additional financial and statistical comparisons on the City, many showing ten years of history.

If that’s too much detail, then check out the quarterly Round Rock by the Numbers. This two-pager is a snapshot of quarterly information on key indicators like sales tax collections (actual vs projections), utility revenues, hotel occupancy rates and the like. There’s also fun facts like Top 10 Property Taxpayers and which departments have the biggest piece of the budget pie. (Spoiler alert: it’s the Police).

One of the City Council’s top strategic goals is a “Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services.” Have a look at the wealth of financial information on our website, and learn more about what makes Round Rock such a well-run City.

Take the Conservation Pledge this April

April is here, and so are the wildflowers!  This April also marks the 6th Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation.  Visit mywaterpledge.com to sign up for the challenge and help Round Rock be the most water conserving city in the U.S.A.!  It’s free, it’s fast, and it helps bring awareness to our most precious and valuable resource: water!

By saving water, Round Rock saves energy, money, and valuable resources. That’s why Mayor McGraw and I are encouraging you to take the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation this month.  By making a simple pledge to save water around your home, you are not only doing your part for our community – you can win any of hundreds of prizes, including a Toyota Prius, Home Improvement Store Gift Cards, Toro Smart Irrigation Controllers, and much more.  Who doesn’t like to win prizes?!?

Plus the pledge helps further our City’s goal of reducing our water consumption and being the most efficient city in Central Texas, if not all of Texas!  Currently, Round Rock residents (on average) use 75 gallons of water per person, per day.  That’s good low number compared to some other nearby cities…but I know we can make it lower.

Simple things like not watering after a rain storm, replacing an old toilet or showerhead with a new WaterSense labeled one, and fixing leaks are small things to do that make a huge impact on our water use.  It can also save you money.

During last year’s campaign, Round Rock ranked #7 in our city population category (100,000 – 299,999 residents).  Let’s show the other cities around the nation how Round Rock takes care of our planet. Make your pledge throughout the month of April at mywaterpledge.com.

Let’s go save some water, Round Rock!

Cervantes: Finding a new home for main Round Rock library

Michelle Cervantes, our Round Rock Library Director, pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of her most recent feature.


In November 2013, the majority of citizens approved the use of $23.2 million in bond proceeds to build a new main library and renovate the existing library or build a new branch library.

With additional space, the library will expand its core services to children, teens and adults, as well as technology and more types of meeting spaces and program rooms. The proposed branch could include the same services as the main branch, with the exception of genealogy and local history.

The community is very fond of our historic building and location on Main Street. Based on feedback from the community, there is strong support to locate the main library as close to downtown as possible.

With that in mind, we have good news to share. We may have found a premier location in downtown Round Rock.

The city and the Round Rock school district are working together to secure a location next to CD Fulkes Middle School, located at 300 West Anderson Avenue. We are still working on the details, but we hope to secure the site by the end of summer. Once the location is secured, it could take about three years to complete the project.

Since the bond passed, the City Council and city administration have been actively searching for a location for the new main library. Selecting a site in downtown Round Rock has been a challenge. You can’t just pick anywhere to build the new library.

There are specific criteria that we need to follow to ensure we find the best possible location for our growing community. Architect Lisa Padilla identified 14 top-site evaluation criteria in a handbook, “Site Selection for Libraries,” published by the American Institute of Architects, which you can find on the library’s website.

Although the bond was approved in 2013, the city has a long list of projects in addition to the library to complete. Parks, fires stations and the police and fire training facility are the other bond projects that were approved by voters.

In January 2014, $1.5 million was issued for land, design and engineering for the main facility. Then in February 2015, the Council announced its unanimous decision to wait on selecting the site for the new library.

At the time, Assistant City Manager Brooks Bennett said, “The Master Plan identified a few premier locations, and the Council has opted to see if one of those locations become available in the not-too-distant future. Money for the new library was slated for the second issuance, which would take place in 2017 at the soonest, so opting to not rush into a location gives the Council the ability to secure a premier location, as identified in the Master Plan, if it becomes available.”

As of right now, we don’t have any forums or focus groups scheduled to gather your feedback, but when we do, the schedule will be posted on our website, Facebook, utility bill newsletter, eNewsletters, NextDoor and other media.

You are always welcome to call or email Michelle Cervantes at 512-218-7010 or mcervantes@roundrocktexas.gov.

Visit roundrocktexas.gov/library for updates and to find Padilla’s site evaluation criteria.

Round Rock water treatment staff help elementary student with science fair project

You know those local stories that give you the warm, fuzzy, my-hometown-is-pretty-much-the-best-place-to-live-ever type feeling? Yeah, us too. And we’re so, SO proud to have another feel good, Round Rock-has-my-heart-style story to share with you here today!

Last month, Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw received a letter from local elementary student, Tasnim Aliyu, thanking City staff for helping her with a science fair project. As it turns out, workers at one of our local water treatment plants had taken the time to sit down with the student and helped her use laboratory tools so that she could learn and present about water filtration systems. Staff even took time on the weekend to meet with the student to help make sure her project was top-notch (going above and beyond is kind of our thing here in Round Rock)!

Cherry on top? The student ended up winning first place in both her school and regional science fairs, receiving a special award from Dell Children’s Hospital along the way. Pretty awesome if we do say so ourselves!

Here’s some of what Tasnim had to say about the experience in her letter to the Mayor (it’s also attached in full below, and worth the read, because it’s so darn cute, y’all):

“If they hadn’t helped me in my science fair project, I wouldn’t have won school science fair nor science fair regionals. They even helped me on their free day – Sunday. I was amazed by their willingness to help students like me. They are my models and they motivated me to add more complicated things in my project and to motivate me to drink clean water. I can’t thank them enough so I ask you to help me. That would be most grateful.”

Smile. It’s not every day there’s a story floating around to warm your heart, but here in Round Rock (and maybe we’re just a tad bit biased), we think those days are more frequent than anywhere else on earth. We love this town and can’t imagine spending our days anywhere else.

Huge shout out to the staff in our Utilities and Environmental Services Department on being completely awesome. You rock!!

Your Water Bill, part 2

back of bill

I want to follow up on my last blog, Reading Your Water Bill, to see how much water you and the people in the property with you (a.k.a. your family), are using.  Have you done it yet?  To refresh your memory, it’s looking at the gallons of water being used, rather than just looking at the dollar amount.  On average here in Round Rock, a person uses 75 gallons per day.  How did your house compare?

So today, in addition to looking at the gallons, I want you to pull those bills out again and look in two other places that will offer you insight into what’s going on with your water bill and what’s going on around the City’s water department.

Now that you know where to find the gallons of water used, you should know WHEN these gallons were used.  Meaning, the billing dates.  A lot of times we hear remarks from customers saying there’s no way they used the water, or (sometimes) thinking the usage would be higher because of something that happened at their house.  It all depends on the dates the meter was read for the bill.  You can find those dates on the back of the bill.

Look at the top, middle of the back of the bill under the words “READ DATE.”  This tells you the “previous” and “current” reads, along with the dates.  This is the time period that you are being charged for.  The dates in the example are September 19, 2016, and October 19, 2016.  The 12,400 gallons of water used on this bill was for that month of mid-September to mid-October.

front of bill

Don’t be surprised if the dates on your bill are from over a month ago.  That’s the way it goes with water billing.  You are charged for what you use, after you use it (so we know how much to charge you for); and then it takes some time to create the bills and mail or send them all out.

If you are surprised by the amount of gallons of your bill, you can check those dates the bill is for and then look at your calendar (if you’re like me: the big paper calendar hanging in the kitchen with everyone’s activities on it!) or search your memory, or phone, to think about what was going on weather-wise or around your house at that time.  Did you have new sod installed and had to water it more?  Was the weather very rainy and you turned off the sprinklers for several weeks?  Did you have a toilet running for a few days?  These are all things to think about when looking at your water bill, as they all affect it.

Next, the second place to look is on the front of bill at the SPECIAL MESSAGE section.  On my example bill, this area is circled in green, and it’s empty!  No special messages this time.  However, it’s a good idea to glance here to find out what is going on the City.  Here’s where we’ll make a note about rate changes, waste water averaging, rain barrel sales, water rebates, and other interesting information.  You wouldn’t want to miss out on a great opportunity by not reading this section!

That’s it!  Thanks for learning about your water use!

 

Round Rock ranked No. 3 best city in America to start a family


One kid might be cryin’ and one kid screamin’, but at least when you’re in Round Rock, you’ve got the peace of mind that you picked one of the best places in America to raise that crazy family of yours! Yep, that’s right. Round Rock has once again found itself atop a city ranking, and this time, it’s for something that’s near and dear to our hometown heart – family.

In its latest study, LendEDU ranked Round Rock the No. 3 best city in the nation to start a family.

The study was based on a unique ranking system that took into account several factors deemed important to those looking to make the big move of establishing a household and starting a family. These factors included:

  • quality local education system
  • comparison of median household income to average cost of initial home purchase
  • crime statistics
  • population of young families in the area

Here in Round Rock, we’re proud to be a family-friendly destination for folks looking for great schools, neighborhoods, parks, employment, shopping, dining and so, so much more.

From the stellar Round Rock Independent School District to acres and acres of parks and trails to our Rock’N River and the so-many-we-can’t-even-begin-to-name-them-all-here family-friendly events, we’ve got something for just about everyone. Oh, and if you haven’t experienced Friday Night Fireworks with the Round Rock Express at the Dell Diamond, you’re missing out on a hometown homerun of epic proportions.

So, who else made the cut? Check out the top twenty-five below or view the full ranking, including a more detailed explanation of study methodology, here: https://lendedu.com/blog/best-cities-start-family/

  1. Frisco, TX
  2. McKinney, TX
  3. Round Rock, TX
  4. Olathe, KS
  5. Plano, TX
  6. Gilbert, AZ
  7. Cary, NC
  8. Naperville, IL
  9. Centennial, CO
  10. Carrollton, TX
  11. Murrieta, CA
  12. Aurora, IL
  13. Overland Park, KS
  14. Broken Arrow, OK
  15. Richardson, TX
  16. Sterling Heights, MI
  17. Chandler, AZ
  18. Elk Grove, CA
  19. Grand Prairie, TX
  20. Peoria, AZ
  21. El Paso, TX
  22. Rochester, MN
  23. Temecula, CA
  24. Orem, UT
  25. Clarksville, TN

Round Rock ranks among top U.S. cities for Millennials

According to a recent study conducted by Millennial Personal Finance, Round Rock ranks as the No. 8 “Best City for Millennials.” And while we aren’t too surprised to see our name among the nation’s best, we’re still pretty darn excited!

But… Millennial schimmenial, right? Wrong! And not just because the guy writing this blog post happens to fall into that generational pigeon hole.

Per the Pew Research Center, millennial describes those “born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.” Comprised of more than 74 million people, it’s a generation poised to become the next set of leaders for our community, state and nation. Add to that that fact that this group of folks has officially surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, and you’ve got some serious staying power.

Why Round Rock though? According to the article, the study looked at several factors when determining where to rank each of the 500 cities reviewed, including employment benefits, expenses, future job growth potential, transportation costs and safety.

With our outstanding parks, growing downtown entertainment district, out-of-this world public safety team, top-notch schools and forward-thinking City leadership team, this ranking just makes sense for our community. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to live in Round Rock?

Here’s the top 20:

 

 

Read Your Water Bill

front of water bill

I want to ask you a very important question: Do you read your water bill?  No, not just look to see how much you owe; but look at how many gallons you used during the last month?  No?  Not really even sure how?  Or what you’re looking at?  I understand!  I feel that way about my phone bill!!

In this blog I wanted to point out several things to start looking at on your water bill.  Maybe not every month, but at the very least each quarter or each season to check in and see how you are doing with your usage.  This may run long though, so I’m going to break it into a small series of things to look at on your bill.

Today I want to point out what I consider to be THE most important place to start looking at on your monthly bill, because you can’t save water if you don’t even know how much you’re using!  Right?  And then, you’re going to need to know if that amount is a high number or low one.  And what (or how much) is  a “normal” amount of water to use each month?

Of course, I have no exact answer about how much water is “normal.”  The answer depends on several factors, like the number of people in the house and their ages, the age of the home or the age of the appliances (like the toilets, dish and clothes washers, showerheads, and faucets), and whether your house has a water softener.  I’ll discuss this more at the end.

back of water bill

So look on the front of the bill at the little graph that shows the gallons of water used during each of the billing cycles for the last year (note: chances are the billing cycle is not for the entire month, it’s part of one month and part of another).  The x-axis (bottom) shows each month’s usage and the y-axis (vertical) indicates the gallons.  See the upper bill picture, I’ve circled the water use graph in red.  We measure the amount of water used each month in gallons—the same amount as a gallon jug of milk and you are billed by the thousand gallons used.

Another place to look at the amount of water used each month is the back of the bill.  Here is written the actual number of gallons used for the current bill.  See the bill at the bottom, I’ve circled that amount in orange.  The water bill says “total consumption in gallons” and then 12,400 is to the side.  That’s 12,400 gallons used this last billing cycle.

Now, many things can determine how much this number will be, as I’ve already listed a lot of those variables–number of people in the house, age of house and appliances, etc.  I will tell you that here in Round Rock, our average winter bill is for 5,868 gallons and our average summer bill is for 12,252 gallons.  How does yours stack up?

Also on average, we here in Round Rock use 75 gallons of water per person, per day.  Of course, this is average because a baby isn’t going to use that much, yet a teenager may use more!  You could make it easy for yourself and say each person in your home uses 100 gallons each day.  The average billing cycle is 30 days, so that would be 3000 gallons for each person each month.  If you have 2 people in your house that would be 6,000 gallons for your water use would be “normal” or expected.

This number can be greatly reduced by installing low water use (or efficient) fixtures, especially toilets and showerheads since they are used the most and the most often (multiple times a day).  Don’t forget the City has a rebate program for water efficient toilets and clothes washers.  Find out those details at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation   If there was any one thing you wanted to do to reduce the amount of water in your home, I would say replace your toilets.  If your home was built before 2000, I would replace the toilets with newer WaterSense models.  This allows you to save water without changing anything, you’ll still flush the same way.

I will say those efficient appliances really do make a difference.  My family of 4 (2 teenagers and 2 adults) uses right at 3,000 of water each month for all of us.  We installed new WaterSense toilets, showerheads, and a Energy Star dishwasher when we moved in 2 years ago.  Our house was built in 1999.  We don’t have a water softener.  We do have an irrigation system (that’s turn off currently!).  The clothes washer is a front loader that’s about 6 years old.  We do use them all several times each week!  It really is possible to reduce your consumption without it being a chore.

Now pull out those bills and take a look!  Next time I’ll point out a couple more places to look on the bill.

 

Top 16 accomplishments of 2016

2016 review bannerThe City of Round Rock had a pretty amazing run last year. And while you may think it’s a little late in the game for one of those look-back-at-the-best-of lists, we believe it’s perfect timing. Mostly because we’re gearing up for the City Council’s annual strategic planning retreat, and the look forward always starts with a look back.

Here are what we consider to be the best of the best 2016 had to offer in Round Rock:

  1. Kalahari Resorts announced in June its intention to build one of its family resorts, water park and convention centers in Round Rock. In December, the City Council approved a series of agreements that brought that vision closer to reality. This is big because the company will invest at least $350 million in the project, hire a minimum of 700 and add a significant new sector — the convention business — to the Round Rock economy.
  2. There was much rejoicing in Downtown Round Rock when we reached substantial completion on the realignment of Round Rock Avenue, Main Street and Mays Street. Why? Because it bigly (or big league?) improves traffic flow for motorists and safety for pedestrians in our one-of-a-kind, vibrant downtown.
  3. We refinanced four separate bond issues that will result in $927,000 in annual interest savings to the City. It was mostly utility bonds, so that’s nearly a million bucks a year that doesn’t have be repaid through your monthly water bills. For more details on budgetary matters, read this. For a high-level view (from about, say, the height your cat would see it if she was on top of the fridge), watch this.
  4. We opened two new fire stations, funding for which was approved by Round Rock voters in a 2013 bond election. The new stations are on the east side of town, and improve our emergency response times significantly. Shorter response times = better chance of surviving heart attack. What’s not to ♥?
  5. Speaking of fire, we hired a new chief, Robert Isbell, in December following a nationwide search. The entire command staff from the Midland Fire Department, his previous employer, made the five-hour drive from West Texas to pay their respects at his pinning ceremony. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about what kind of a leader he is, we’re not sure what will!
  6. The City broke ground on a Public Safety Training Facility in November. The $29 million facility will give our first responders a state-of-the-art training facility right here in Round Rock. Currently, our police and firefighters have to travel for advanced training, a big expense of time and money.
  7. We opened a major expansion of the Rock’N River water park this summer, and it made a big splash with residents — revenue was double what had been projected.
  8. Our Planning and Development Services Department lined up annexation agreements for more than 2,000 acres in northeast Round Rock. This is property currently outside the City limits. The agreements ensure orderly, compatible development as Round Rock continues to grow. You’ll thank us profusely in 15 years.
  9. While we’re talking growth, our inspection staff approved permits for more than $200 million worth of new commercial and residential development. They conducted 18,000 inspections — 90 percent within one day of being requested! These guys and gals deliver on the promise to Make It Happen.
  10. Speaking of growth, the Round Rock Economic Development Partnership delivered another winning deal in May, when United Parcel Service announced it was building a regional distribution center on SH 45. UPS will build a 100,000-square-foot facility worth $70 million and employ at least 314 at the site. The jobs will have an annual average salary of at least $50,000 a year.
  11. Technically, this didn’t happen until 2017. But 99 percent of the work on the Creek Bend Boulevard extension was completed in 2016, so it makes the list. Our Transportation staff will tell you this is one of those projects that is a real game changer, and, at just $9 million, a real bargain. We know, $9 million is a lot of money, but in transportation dollars, that’s relatively small potatoes. Or not, depending on your point of view.
  12. Last January, our Police held an outreach event with a local mosque. The event received nice coverage in the local media. What didn’t get coverage was news about a little note and flowers received by the mosque in November. We’d like to think the outreach event planted the seed that sprouted such lovely sentiments.
  13. While our Public Library continues to look for a new home in 2017, that didn’t stop it from booking some big wins in 2016. It made the switch to a new catalog system, all the while experiencing a record year for circulation — 1,080,312 items checked out — with a 39 percent increase in eBook checkouts.
  14. We’re gushing over how well our water conservation efforts performed last year. The 117 irrigation system audits, rebates for 235 efficient toilets and 28 efficient clothes dryers, and rainwater harvesting program will result in nearly 2 million gallons of water saved per year.
  15. No department sees more wins than our Sports Management and Tourism team. The Round Rock Sports Center produced $1.2 million in net income, and the Sports Capital of Texas hosted 55 tournaments and eventsdrawing 95,000 participants — that produced more than $10 million in direct economic activity.
  16. Last on the list but first in our hearts was the Lost Teddy Alert. When we discovered a lost teddy bear after one of Downtown Round Rock‘s family-friendly Music on Main concerts, we reached out via social media in an attempt to find its owner. You guys delivered. Little girl and lost teddy were reunited, and it felt so good. In fact, nothing felt better than that in 2016.

“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

That’s what the familiar face said to me and Brian Ligon, our ace multimedia specialist, as we were filming the latest Street Cred. We were at the corner of Wyoming Springs and the new Creek Bend Boulevard extension. I recognized the driver because she was a crossing guard at Cactus Ranch Elementary and Walsh Middle School for the six years my sons attended those schools.

And I knew exactly what she was talking about. Oh, the exquisite relief this little half-mile stretch of four lanes provides to folks on the west side.

Those who live west of IH 35 and north of Sam Bass Road have had limited options to access RM 620 — home to an H-E-B, Round Rock High, a hospital, doctor’s offices, etc. As we note in the Street Cred piece, if you live in Behren’s Ranch, Wood Glen, the Plantation, The Woods, Hidden Glen, Bent Tree, The Hermitage or Mira Vista, you’ve had to drive a ways, a mile or two or more, to get to Chisholm Trail or IH 35 to get south. And oh the joy that awaits you on IH 35 sound bound there. Or, you can take that funky zig zag route through the Great Oaks and Fern Bluff neighborhoods to get to RM 620.

It gets old. Real old. But no more.

I had my own special Creek Bend moment a couple of hours later. I was at Sunrise and Old Settlers Boulevard, and needed to get home, in the Oak Creek neighborhood (near St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center). Instead of taking the interstate to RM 620 and then getting to experience the joy of Round Rock High School letting out around 4:30, I simply drove over IH 35 and continued west on FM 3406 (which TxDOT recently finished improving — thanks, guys!), hung a left at Creek Bend (I even made the green light!) crossed over lovely (but expensive to build bridges over) Brushy Creek and was home in a snap. It felt like I saved at least 10 minutes in driving time.

It was, indeed, a beautiful day.