Year: 2019

Mayor Morgan: Round Rock marks accomplishments in 2019

Mayor Craig Morgan pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of his most recent feature.


Mayor Craig Morgan

At the city of Round Rock, we often focus on long-range planning, looking five to 10 years down the road as we consider policy decisions. But at the end of each year, it’s nice to take a step back and review all that we have been able to accomplish in just 12 months.

In 2019, we were named one of the Coolest Suburbs in America by Apartment Therapy and ranked No. 2 on Money’s list of Best Places to Live. Even with an increasing number of residents moving here to enjoy our beautiful parks, recreational activities, economic opportunities and safe neighborhoods, we’ve been able to maintain a family-friendly community that is distinctive by design.

The secret sauce to our success? It’s all found in our annual strategic planning process to establish a clear vision for the year ahead. Our strategic goals this year focused on providing high value services, ensuring we have necessary infrastructure in place, maintaining a great community environment for our residents, promoting tourism, providing an exciting community destination in downtown and sustaining our neighborhoods.

Transportation is the most visible piece of our infrastructure, and this year we made huge strides toward reaching our goal of ensuring an adequate transportation system for our residents. Our most recent Transportation Master Plan forecasts a need for $1.2 billion in projects to set our road network up for success by 2040.

That number is no doubt intimidating, but this year, the City Council committed to invest $240 million in funding for road projects over the next five years to improve capacity and connectivity. This is not including state-funded projects already in the works for RM 620 and Interstate 35 in Round Rock.

Part of the funding for our five-year plan will come from roadway impact fees that the Council enacted earlier this year, providing a dependable funding source from private development to meet increasing traffic demands as our community grows.

We expect our faucets and toilets to work when we use them, but it takes deliberate planning to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure in place to provide these essential services to our growing community.

This year, we entered the final design phase of a deep water intake project with our regional partners that will give us improved reliability in times of severe drought, and we invested $12.3 million from our utilities fund in water and wastewater capital improvements to maintain and expand our system. We made improvements to the Brushy Creek regional wastewater system to allow for greater pumping capacity, more efficient power usage and reduced chance for spills at the plant.

It’s easy to appreciate the value that downtown provides for our community at this time of year, when the evenings are filled with the laughter of families and youth taking pictures among glowing holiday lights.

Since adopting our Downtown Master Plan in 2010, we’ve invested $116.9 million in making Downtown an exciting destination that helps residents feel at home in the heart of their community. We paved the way for a new and improved Library this year by purchasing property for its new location, which is located directly behind the current library’s site. The new building, which was approved by voters in our 2013 bond election, is expected to be approximately 60,000 square feet and three stories, with an adjacent 300-stall parking garage.

This year also saw the completion of projects that offer improved recreational opportunities for our residents. Our parks and recreation department renovated the disc golf course at Old Settlers Park and built 1.14 miles of new trail along Brushy Creek between Veterans Park and the Rabb House. Residents will continue to see improvements to trails and playground equipment in the coming year.

Sports tourism thrived in 2019, with 45 out of 52 weekends booked at the Multipurpose Complex and 46 weekend events at the Sports Center. We set a new benchmark of $1 million in revenue at these facilities to help offset costs, and our local economy benefited from the tourism generated by these events. Forest Creek Golf Club exceeded all expectations in its first full year since its renovation, posting positive net income that can be reinvested into the course’s maintenance.

Development continued to see sustained growth this year. In 2018, the city set a record for the most building permits issued at 4,157, and 2019 is on pace to break that record. While we saw more single-family homes built in 2018 than this past year, we’ve seen bigger commercial projects like Kalahari, Embassy Suites, La Quinta and Avid Hotels come through the development pipeline in 2019.

More housing is on the way with this year’s annexation and zoning of more than 750 acres in northeast Round Rock, which combined will eventually create over 2,000 single family homes and up to 700 multifamily units. Zoning was also approved this year for an integrated senior living project that will include 400 senior and low-density multifamily units.

As our community continues to grow, the revitalization and social fabric of our existing neighborhoods remains an important area of focus.

Our neighborhood services division’s new Outdoor Movie Chest was checked out 31 times for neighborhoods to host movie nights, and we launched a new lawn care foster program and pole tree saw kit program to help community organizations mow lawns and trim trees for those in need. We empowered residents to improve their homes through the new fence staining kit, and we helped families in need with minor home repairs funded by the Community Development Block Grant program.

Our Police and Fire Departments also continued to build trust and engage with the community in positive, proactive ways. The Fire Department oversaw the installation of 377 smoke detectors during neighborhood cleanups, and the Police Department received an award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police for its Operation Front Porch program, which aims to curb package thefts.

Long-range planning, public safety and quality of life initiatives all play a major role in achieving the success we saw in 2019. These programs wouldn’t be possible without the staff who make them happen, or the input we receive from residents.

This year, we began the process of updating our comprehensive plan with a six-month public engagement process that will help us develop vision and policies for development of our city over the next decade. As with so much of what we do on City Council, residents who have taken the time to let their voices be heard are helping us shape our future in a way that we can be assured will have an overall positive effect on our city.

It’s truly a team effort to create such a dynamic community, and I look forward to everything we plan to accomplish in 2020.

Decem-Burr!

Winter is on its way in Central Texas, and that means it’s time to prepare and protect your plants and pipes!

Some might think, “well if it doesn’t rain, it won’t freeze.” Frost develops on clear nights, and the rule of thumb is anytime temperatures are expected to be 32 degrees or below, you should prepare for a freeze.

So, what should you do?

  1. Turn off your sprinklers

In our region, the most valuable adjustment you can make is to reduce the watering schedule or simply turn off the irrigation controller during the winter months.  Because the temperatures are cooler, less water is lost to evaporation and transpiration and plants simply do not need as much to replenish what is lost. In addition to cooler temperatures, winter is typically our rainy season too, so it’s best to take advantage of the free, nitrogen-rich rainfall. During normal winter conditions, the irrigation doesn’t need to be turned on more than once per month, if at all.

  1. Protect your outdoor plants

If weather is expected to hit 32 degrees or lower, protect your plants! Our first freeze occurred the morning after Halloween 2019, and for some people, it came as a surprise when they walked outside to see ice frost everywhere. Some people, like myself, were saddened to see that some plants have died due to the freezing temperatures.

  • Bring potted plants inside but be careful not to leave these plants too close to a heater vent because they can dry out.
  • The best way to protect outdoor plants from freezing is to cover them with a material that acts as an insulation and allows moisture to escape. There are different plant protecting products on the market, but the easiest and cheapest thing to use is a bed sheet. The best time to cover plants is before it gets dark so that the stored heat doesn’t escape. Make sure that the entire plant is covered, and the cover reaches the soil.
  • Compost and mulch outdoor plants thoroughly.  These two layers will help insulate the plant’s root zones while supplying the plant with needed nutrients.  Two inches of mulch is ideal, and remember, not too close to the trunk of trees or shrubs.  Mulch should be about two finger widths away from the truck.
  • Water, but avoid moisture on the plant leaves and stems–this means hand-water. When freezing temperatures are expected, watering can benefit plants. Water acts as an insulator, and water also helps retain heat so moist soil will stay warmer than dry soil.

Some people, including myself ask if Texas really needs to worry about pipes freezing. Well it doesn’t freeze that often in Central Texas, but there are still chances for pipes to freeze.

Pipe Protection

Some apartment complexes and neighborhoods will post signs along roads warning resident to drip their faucets for the freezing weather to come. If your area does not post warnings, you should always check the weather and news for freeze warnings.

What should you do to protect your pipes?

Insulate and Drip!

  1. Drip outside faucets 

When water freezes, it expands and can put pressure on any pipe material. Freezing temperatures even in Texas can cause pipes to break. The places where pipes are at risk of freezing are exposed and outdoors, unheated areas, and pipes that run against exterior walls that have no insulation.

Water is much more likely to freeze when stationary, so it’s good to let water moving through your pipes.

  • Drip outside faucets 24 hours a day to help prevent your pipes from freezing. This is not necessary unless temperatures are expected to be 28 degrees or below for at least 4 hours. (Be sure to turn off the faucets after the threat of freezing weather.)
  • To save water, use a bucket to catch the water dripping and use it to brush your teeth, cook, or water plants.
  • Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.

   2.Insulate

  • Wrap all exposed pipes located outside or in unheated areas of the home.
  • Remove garden hoses from outside faucets. Insulate outside faucets with Styrofoam cover, rags or paper.

Like I said before, the threat of pipes freezing where we live is not common, but when winter weather comes, you don’t want to be caught by surprise with broken pipes. On the other hand, plants freezing is more common. So be prepared to protect your plants and pipes this winter. Make sure you take precautions and check weather daily in the winter.

Stay Warm

Happy Winter!

Save Water and Collect Rainwater!

A Great Idea

As society becomes more aware that our natural resources are being depleted faster than they can renew themselves, we have come up with more ways to conserve and protect them. Have you ever considered collecting rainwater and putting it to good use? Think about every private and public property in the city. Now think about how much water each of those properties use. That’s a lot of water, isn’t it? Now try to imagine every single one of those properties collecting rainwater and using it for some of their water needs. Imagine how much of our municipal water source would be conserved. I know that it’s a stretch to think about every single property in the city collecting rainwater, but I think it’s possible for a rainwater harvesting movement to start with more homeowners in the city.

An Inside Look to Round Rock’s Water Usage

As our city grows, our water use does too. Have you ever wondered how much water is withdrawn from our water source (Lake Georgetown) in one day? According to the City of Round Rock Water Production Report, in August (one of the hottest summer months) produced a daily average of 28.1 million gallons of water.  Lake Georgetown supplies water to Georgetown, Round Rock, and Brushy Creek MUD. Think about those three cities water use in one day all together…

Some might ask, “Why would I collect rainwater and what would I use it for?”

Ways to use collected rainwater

  • Water landscape (via hand watering or hooking up to irrigation system)
  • Water gardens
  • Water indoor plants
  • Washing cars
  • Household cleaning

Some more complex uses

  • Refilling pools, fountains, or bird baths
  • Washing clothes (if connected)
  • Flushing toilets (if connected)

Benefits of rainwater harvesting

The benefits of collecting rainwater are countless, but here are just a few to get you thinking about how it could directly affect you.

  • Non-chlorinated water is better for plants and landscapes
  • Reduces erosion on properties
  • Reduces rainwater runoff that would be contaminated
  • It can be used as a backup water source for emergencies
  • Reduces demand on municipal water sources
  • Reduced water bills because rainwater is FREE
  • It uses simple technologies
  • Easy to install
  • There’s a rebate from the City!  https://www.roundrocktexas.gov/rebates/

Something to think about

Here in Texas the weather can be a little strange to say the least. One month we could have large amounts of rain and the next could be completely dry. Just think about this past spring of 2019. It rained a total of 17.4 inches, averaging about 4 inches a month. (March-June) Then in July it felt like it just stopped raining and we started heading towards drought conditions. During the hot and dry summer months (July-September) it rained a total of 1.56 inches of rain.

Half of Williamson County is in severe drought as I’m writing this. We aren’t under any water restrictions, but it’s scary to think about the water usage and replenishing ratio. As it gets hotter and dryer here in central Texas, a lot of homeowners start watering their lawns and plants more. I mean nobody wants their lawns and plants to die! Thankfully, this fall has brought down some temperatures and brought us some rain.

Click here for more information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture this

This is an example of how much water a common house would use for irrigation. In this scenario, I will be using the average lawn size for a home in Texas.

Front and backyard lawn total- 7,552 sq. ft

A lawn needs about 1 inch of water (0.623 gallons) per square foot during summer months.

So that means I must multiply the 1 inch of water (0.623 gallons) by the amount of square feet there are in that lawn.  7,552 X 0.623= 4,705 gallons

If I water twice a week, that’s 9,410 gallons per week!

Now think about some of those huge commercial properties that have a lot of land to water.

Each number is in thousands of gallons. Click here for more information

How much water can be collected?

Some might ask, “will I even be able to collect enough water for actual usage?” or “would this really make an impact?”.  According to the Texas Water Development Board, for every inch of rainfall that falls on a 2,000 square foot roof, the rainfall collection yields to about 1,000 gallons.

Here’s an example of how much water you could collect during a rainy spring to use during a dry and hot summer.

Rainfall amounts from (March-June 2019) reached 17.40 inches in Central Texas.
According to the US Census, the average home in the US South is 2,392 square feet.

You will get 0.623 gallons (1 inch of water) for one square foot of your roof

2,392 X 0.632= 1,490 

1,490 X 17.4= 25,926 gallons

25,926 gallons of water collected during spring. If you wanted, you could use all that rainwater instead of your irrigation for a whole month! It would be especially helpful if the city were to go on mandatory water restrictions during a drought.

Collecting Rainwater can be simple!

Whether you are going to DYI or buy a container for storing rain, there are three basic components of a rainwater harvesting system.

  1. Catchment area- roof (impervious cover) that catches rain.
  2. Conveyance system- transporting rainwater from catchment area to storage (gutters and downspout)  
  3. Storage- container for storing rainwater. You can attach a rain barrel to your home’s downspout.

There are great guides to installing rainwater harvesting systems

The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting from the Texas Water Development Board to learn how to install your own rainwater harvesting system.

American Rainwater Catchment Association

Collecting rainwater is a great way to help save the most precious natural resource, water. It also will help YOU save money! The benefits are endless, and you will be doing your part to help protect Earth.

 

 

 

Fall Gardening

A Sustainable Landscape

September marks the beginning of fall gardening here in Central Texas, especially for those native plant species. Early fall is also the perfect time to plant those shady native trees. Native plants can thrive without constant care, attention, and water, which is extremely important in times of drought. Native plants are a greater wildlife value, providing food and habitat. Growing native in your garden or yard will help you save money, time, and the most important natural resource, water.

You can still have a colorful garden.

Central Texas has a variety of beautiful colorful perennials, shrubs, and roses. These native flowers attract natural pollinators which are vital to the environment. It’s the perfect time of year to start planting Wildflower seeds! They germinate in the fall, develop throughout winter and bloom early spring. (Wildflowers do need moist soil to germinate but avoid over watering because they do not like saturated soils.) You can also plant some cool season annuals and vegetables to have throughout our mild fall.

Considerations for Native Trees

Click picture for more soil info.

Although native trees require less attention, it’s still important to consider the preparation. Think about what kind of soil you have in your landscape. Is it rocky? Does it have poor draining conditions? Does it retain water long enough? Here in Williamson County, we are divided between two major soil zones: Backland Prairie and Edwards Plateau.

 The Western side of Williamson County is in the Edwards Plateau zone. Soils are rocky and gravelly because it is underlined by limestone. This soil doesn’t hold water well, has high alkalinity and sometimes a low nutrient content. Consider planting Cedar Elm which can withstand poor soil, or Lacey Oak which can grow on shallow limestone soils. Texas Red Oaks are well adapted to rocky soils, and Bigtooth Maples thrive in alkaline soils. These trees can be watered every 3-4 weeks once well established.

Over to the East, we have Backland Prairie soils. This zone has darker, deep, and clay soils.  This rich fertile soil is great for planting Eastern Red Cedar, which needs deep soil to grow. Chinquapin Oak, Bur Oak, and Pecan all need dark and deep soils to grow their extensive root system. These trees can be watered every two to three weeks once well established.

A Self-Sufficient Landscape

The most important thing to a native landscape is to be self-sufficient. Ever wonder how that giant Oak tree by your neighborhood got so big without anyone taking care of it?  Native plants and trees are adapted to our climate, weather conditions, and soils. I’m not saying you should completely ignore your native plants but let them do their own thing and grow how nature intended them to.

Here’s two great searchable sources of native plants:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

 Austin Watershed Department’s Grow Green program.

It’s Emergency Preparedness Month: Are you ready?

September is Emergency Preparedness Month and the perfect time to make sure that you and your family are ready for whatever Mother Nature sends your way.

Over the years, Central Texas has witnessed the devastation that storms, flash floods and wildfire can cause. It’s time to take stock and ensure that if a weather event occurs here, everyone is ready. Knowing the risk and staying informed are two of the most important steps that can be taken in the preparedness journey.

Here are a few tips to help get started:

If we can’t reach you, we can’t alert you – register today for local alerts through WarnCentralTexas.org.

Blog: How we pay for basic city services may surprise you

fiscal 2020 budget graphic
The Round Rock City Council will vote Thursday, Sep. 26, on a slight increase in property taxes this coming year. While no one likes paying more in taxes, the increase is needed to ensure the City has the budget necessary to deliver the high-value services our citizens expect and build the infrastructure necessary to keep up with a growing population. 

While it’s easy to target property taxes as evidence of government spending run amok, consider this: For every $1 of residential property tax, the City uses another $4.36 from other sources to fund the $121 million General Fund budget, which pays for core services like Police, Fire, Library, Transportation, and Parks. Let that sink in a minute. 

Property taxes comprise just 35 percent of our General Fund. So where does the rest of the money for the General Fund come from? Sales taxes make up the largest source of revenue at 43 percent, with other fees and service charges covering the remaining 22 percent.  

Back to property taxes. Consider this: Even though single-family homes make up 92 percent of the properties in Round Rock, nearly half of all property tax revenues are paid by owners of non-single family property.  

Single-family homes will contribute $23 million — about 19 percent — of General Fund revenues forecast for fiscal 2020.  

What’s really interesting is that commercial properties (which includes multifamily) makeup just 8 percent of the real estate parcels, but are responsible for 46 percent of the $14.7 billion of the taxable value in Round Rock. That’s why the City works so hard with our partners at the Round Rock Chamber to attract businesses like Kalahari Resorts and Conventions and UPS to locate here. They’re capital-intensive businesses that contribute significantly to our property tax base. 

Think about it this way: If all the City had was property tax revenue to fund general government, we could only afford Police and the Library, with $5 million dollars left over for everything else – Fire, Parks and Recreation, Transportation, General Services and support services like Finance and Information Technology.   

To drill down even further: If all the City had was single-family property tax revenue, we couldn’t cover the Fire Department’s $24 million budget.  

Property tax proposal  

Let’s look at the proposed property tax rate. The City Council is considering a property tax rate of 43.9 cents per $100 of valuation, an increase of 3.7 cents above this year’s effective tax rate of 40.2 cents. The effective tax rate takes into account the 5 percent growth in existing property values from last year. The increase allows the City to fund one-time public safety equipment replacements (.5 cent), debt payments for a five-year road improvement program (1.5 cents) and to keep up with rising operating costs of public safety and city services, including 10 new employees, six of whom are needed for public safety (1.7 cents). 

At the proposed rate, the owner of a median value home worth $255,198 will pay $93 per month in City property taxes next year. That’s an additional $8.84 per month compared to this year. You can use our handy calculator to determine what your property tax will be based on the value of your home. 

Still, City property taxes could be a lot higher.

If voters hadn’t approved increasing the local sales rate back in the 1980s, your City property tax bill would be 25 percent higher. A half-cent of the 2 cents in local sales tax that shoppers pay in Round Rock goes directly to property tax reduction. That half-cent is equal to 15 cents on the property tax rate. That saves the median value homeowner $372 a year on their City tax bill. (That’s a really great reason to Shop the Rock.) 

Bringing in more sales tax revenue is a primary goal of our Sports Capital of Texas tourism program. Visitors who come to play here also shop and dine here, which helps pay for basic City services and takes upward pressure off the property tax rate.  

Strong sales tax revenue and a successful tourism program are big reasons why Round Rock’s property tax rate compares favorably in Central Texas and beyond. 

 

Your total property tax bill 

Of course, the City is only one entity which you pay property taxes to. Other taxing entities are Round Rock ISD, Williamson County, Austin Community College and the Brushy Creek Water Control and Improvement District. 

The City takes up about 19 percent of your total tax bill. RRISD accounts for 56 percent, Williamson County is 18 percent, and ACC and the WCID make up the final 7 percent. So out of a total tax bill of $5,900 for the median value home, you’re paying about $1,100 toward City services. Again, we think we offer amazing value for your property tax dollars here at the City.  

 

By no means are we saying quit complaining about property taxes. We’re just offering some perspective on how we leverage property taxes to fund City government in Round Rock. Providing remarkable value to our property taxpayers has been a foundational element in Round Rock’s future focus for many years, and this year’s budget and tax rate are no exception. 

Blog: Budget proposal targets major improvements to roadway network

fiscal 2020 budget graphic
How do you implement a $1.2 billion Transportation Master Plan?

One year at a time.

In the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget, the City of Round Rock is investing $69.3 million into our transportation network. As highlighted in our first FY20 budget blog post, the largest part of the $444.7 million budget is for infrastructure.

The Transportation Master Plan lays out the expansions, extensions and new roadways needed over the next 20 years to keep up with our growing population. Granted, $1.2 billion is a big number. But few would argue there’s a bigger problem in Round Rock than traffic.

There’s little the City can do to improve flows on I-35, the busiest and most congested roadway in town. That’s a Texas Department of Transportation responsibility, and the good news is the state agency has and is and will be spending tens of millions of dollars on interstate improvements in Round Rock.

The most important transportation element in the proposed budget is funding for the first year of the planned five-year, $240 million transportation improvement program. The projects targeted in that program include:

  • Kenney Fort Boulevard extension from Forest Creek Drive to SH 45
  • Gattis School Road widening from A.W. Grimes Boulevard to Double Creek Drive
  • Gattis School Road widening from Via Sonoma to Red Bud Lane, including improvements to the intersection at Red Bud Lane
  • University Boulevard/Chandler Road improvements from A.W. Grimes Boulevard to SH 130
  • Engineering for the extension of Wyoming Springs Drive from Creek Bend Boulevard to FM 3406

The City Council approved in April $30 million in Certificates of Obligation (COs) to pay for the ​initial round of work for the program.

The COs have an impact of 1.5 cents on the proposed property tax rate. Other funding for the program is expected to come from roadway impact fees from developers; state and federal funds such as CAMPO grants, which have already contributed $29 million to the Kenney Fort Boulevard, Gattis School Road and University Boulevard projects; the half-cent, Type B sales tax revenues; and partnerships with private developers.

Other projects slated for funding in the proposed budget include:

  • University Boulevard widening to six lanes from I-35 to Sunrise Road
  • $4.3 million for street maintenance
  • The extension of McNeil Road east to Georgetown Street, an important project for Downtown
  • Reconstruction of RM 620 from I-35 to Deepwood Drive (TxDOT is funding the majority of this project)
  • Connecting Logan Street to A.W. Grimes Boulevard
  • Subdivision sidewalk improvements
  • Relocation and consolidation of Transportation Department staff into a new facility on Luther Peterson Drive
  • Turn lanes into the Kalahari Resorts property from Kenney Fort Boulevard

Ensuring adequate funding to build out our transportation network is one of the key ways the FY20 budget is focused on our future. We’ve got a ways to go, but we’ve made significant progress in recent years and more improvements — including $69 million worth in FY20 — are on the way.

Blog: Budget tells story of City focused on service delivery, future growth 

fiscal 2020 budget graphic
We usually don’t think about budgets telling a story, but they do. And the City of Round Rock’s
proposed fiscal year 2020 budget tells the story of an organization focused on the future 

Of course, the budget will fund the daily activities needed to successfully run our city — with a population of 116,120 and growing — from October 2019 to September 2020. But the FY20 budget is particularly shaped by the City Council’s strategic priorities, which include ensuring we have infrastructure in place to effectively manage our growth.   

In addition to infrastructure, those priorities include maintaining a family-friendly community that’s safe, with high value services and great neighborhoods, and that draws visitors through our tourism program and an authentic Downtown. 

The proposed $444.7 million budget includes $214 million for capital projects like roads and utility infrastructure, $125 million for daily expenses – including 11 new employees – and $106 million for utility and drainage operations and our sports tourism program and facilities. The City Council is scheduled to make its final budget vote on Sept. 12. 

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s budget: 

Transportation 

  • Total capital spending for transportation is proposed to be $69.3 million 
  • Annual funding for neighborhood street maintenance  of $4.3 million. The City has invested $12.5 million in street maintenance projects recently completed or currently inprogress
  • McNeil (East Bagdad) Extension  will extend  McNeil Road east to Georgetown Street in Downtown
  • Significant engineering and staff work to prepare  for a five-year, $240 million transportation improvement program  – including Kenney Fort Boulevard, Gattis School  Road, Red Bud Lane and University Boulevard 

Public Safety 

  • Construction of a new Fire Station No. 3, needed to improve response times in south Round Rock, estimated to be completed in November 2020 
  • A new truck for the Fire Department’s fleet
  • Hiring an  additional Fire Code Inspector to help the Fire Prevention division keep up with the City’s  commercial and residential growth
  • Two additional police officers  and two  additional  victims’ assistants  to support efforts to keep  Round Rock one of safest cities in nation, along  with an additional assistant for public safety vehicle maintenance 

Recreation/Cultural amenities 

  • Continued work on the expansion of our trail system including the Brushy Creek,  Heritage and Lake Creek trails – funded by bonds approved by voters in 2013
  • Design of our new library facility to be built in  Downtown, just north of its existing location
  • Construction of Behrens Ranch Park and updates to Mesa Village Park and Bradford  Park 

Downtown 

The General Fund, which pays for core services like Police, Fire, Library, Transportation and Parks, is funded through sales taxes, property taxes and other fees and services. The charts below show where the money comes from for the General Fund, and where it is spent.  

That’s it for Chapter 1 of the budget story. In future FY20 budget blog posts, we’ll dig deeper into transportation funding and the tax rate proposal. We hope you’ll follow along, as we tell the story of a city focused on delivering needed services in a fiscally responsible way with a sharp eye on the future.

Save Water this Summer

The weather has been hit or miss so far this summer, with very little rain since July.  The City’s water use, as a whole, has doubled since the beginning of July!!  We were using close to 18 million gallons of water per day; now we’re up to 37 million gallons of water per day!  That’s a huge increase (city-wide, our use has doubled) all because of the heat.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say the high temperatures don’t mean we need to crank up the sprinklers.  That would be doing a disservice to our lawns and native plants AND our water source, which is Lake Georgetown.

While we aren’t in any mandatory water restrictions right now, the potential is there.  The lake levels have dropped from 100% full at the beginning of July, to 86% full as I’m writing this (mid-August).  That’s a lot of water reduction in only about 6 weeks!

I’d like to offer you several specific ways to help keep Round Rock’s water use low, so we don’t have to enact mandatory water restrictions.  You don’t have to do them all (however saving water = saving money and saving energy), so I just ask that you do as many as you can!

  1. Fix any and all leaks at your house; this could be a leaking toilet, a dripping faucet, or a pipe leak on the mainline. It could be leaks in the irrigation system.  Yes, there are a lot of places for water to leak from! 
    • The City’s Utility department has dye tablets and Teflon tape (aka plumber’s tape) for free in the Utility Billing Office. You can also request a free leak kit from the website here or see all our tips for leak detection at your property at roundrocktexas.gov/leaks
    • You can also view your water use on your city water portal; here you can see your weekly, daily, or hourly water use. You would be able to see if you have a leak if there is constant water use all day, even when you are sleeping or gone.  This isn’t in real time, there’s about a 12-hour delay, but it’s also great way to see how much you are using for different activities.
  2. Do not water more than twice per week. This is crucial to keep your lawn and landscape drought tolerant.  There are exceptions to this, like brand newly installed plants, gardens, plants in pots, but generally speaking, nothing needs  to be watered more than twice per week—some plants even less.
    • The problem with watering frequently is that the plant roots don’t grow long and strong.  They stay short and close to the plant—knowing they do not need to grow, as water will appear every day, or every other day.  Your landscaping goal should be to have a yard that you don’t have to water each summer, right?  Get the plant used to occasional watering, by not watering more than twice per week, and even cutting back to once per week.
    • Another great way to save is to not water if rain is forecast, or it has just rained—especially if it’s rained more than ½ an inch. Keep the water off for at least a week after a good soak.
  3. Is your yard thriving this summer? Looking lush and green and not realizing that it’s been over 100 degrees for weeks?  Does it look like it needs mowing once per week for sure, if not more?  If that’s the case, then I’d say you can reduce your runtimes (minutes) slightly and see if you notice any difference in the yard.  If not, great!  You’ve just reduced your water consumption.  You can try to reduce again, slightly, after a week or two to save some more!  By slightly, I’m talking 2 minutes.  That’s it—it’s not much, will your lawn even notice?    Try it! 
  4. Can you tell when your irrigation system has run because you have water all over your car, or back porch, or running down the street? That’s water is being wasted.  That’s water you’ve paid for, but not getting any benefit from.
    • Adjusting heads is relatively easy.  sometimes over time, the sprinkler heads just move and need some slight adjusting back to spray what they are supposed to spray.  In some cases, you can physically turn the head to face the direction it’s supposed to be spraying (this works best when the system is turned on, so you can see if you’re turning it to the right spot). 
    • Sometimes the head is just spraying water too far—over the landscape and into the street or driveway. We have a nice video that shows how to make that adjustment.  It’s also pretty easy, you just need a small, flat-head screwdriver and be willing to get a little wet! 
  5. Consider a smart controller for your irrigation system, rather than a traditional timer.
    • A smart controller will adjust for the weather, versus the traditional timer that waters every, just because it’s the set day to water, regardless if it is about to rain, or has just rained. The city’s irrigation rebate program may also cover a portion of the cost of a new controller, if it’s a WaterSense labeled controller.
    • Another way to achieve this would be to just water manually, not on a schedule. Actually look at your yard to determine if it looks stressed out (don’t do this during the heat of the day, because of course it will!); look at it first thing in the morning.  Is the grass leave blade upright, green, looking strong?  Then it’s good, no extra water is needed.

If you are going to water your lawn, we ask that you voluntarily stay on your water days; this way if we do go into mandatory restrictions you won’t need to make any changes.

    • For odd addresses, that’s Wednesday and/or Saturday.
    • For even addresses, that’s Thursday and/or Sunday.
    • No automatic irrigation is permitted between 10am – 7pm on any day.
    • Watering by hand allowed any day, at any time.

Need more detailed information about the water restrictions?  Visit the City website’s Drought Restriction page.

 

Sports tourism provides a win-win for Round Rock

Sports tourism has been a home run for the City of Round Rock, which has built a variety of first-rate indoor and outdoor athletic facilities. These sites host national tournaments as well provide outstanding venues for our hometown athletes. It’s a true win-win for our community, especially when you consider the economic benefits.

From the Dell Diamond to the Round Rock Sports Center and Round Rock Multipurpose Complex, the City’s investment in top-notch facilities pays off in a number of ways. 

Total direct travel spending in Round Rock for international and domestic travelers totaled $319 million in 2017 (the most recent year for which figures are available). State and local tax revenues directly generated by travel spending were approximately $29 million in 2017. 

The local tax revenue generated from visitors helps to improve infrastructure, add services and keep property taxes low. The money spent by visitors helps employ residents, pay their salaries and keep the local economy strong. Total direct employment in Round Rock for the travel industry in 2017 was 3,250 jobs and $114 million total direct earnings.  

When it comes to usage of the facilities, we get the best of both worlds. Local folks use the outdoor Multipurpose Complex at Old Settlers Park about 50 percent of the time, with 26 percent being used by visitors for tournaments. (About 24 percent of the time the fields are resting or not booked.) At the indoor Sports Center, locals book about 43 percent of the available time, with visitors utilizing the facility about 50 percent of the time. 

The Sports Center was built using mostly hotel occupancy taxes (HOT), a revenue stream generated by overnight visitors to our hotels and motels. For the Multipurpose Complex, about one-third of its construction costs were paid for by HOT revenue. Operating costs for both facilities are 100 percent paid by HOT revenue. 

Our tourism efforts will pay off more significantly when Kalahari Resorts and Conventions opens its flagship facility in Round Rock in late 2020, bringing an expected 1 million visitors to town annually. We project the Kalahari project will generate $4.7 million a year in net revenue to the City.  

What makes all this winning even sweeter is the fact the services provided by the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau come at no expense to local taxpayers since it is funded entirely by hotel occupancy taxes. 

Tourism creates a diversified economy, which lays a solid foundation for Round Rock’s future growth. It also attracts business and encourages entrepreneurial opportunities. From softball to soccer and scoreboards to stadiums, Round Rock is playing the long game to ensure a winning economy for years to come. Go Round Rock!