Year: 2020

Round Rock reminds residents to turn off sprinklers as fall weather settles in

It’s hard to believe we are more than halfway through fall as temperatures are just beginning to drop. While it looks like warm temps will hold out for Thanksgiving Day, more rain and cooler weather are expected to arrive over the weekend.

These late fall temperatures should translate to good news for you — lower water bills! As winter gets closer, the plants in your yard are going dormant and have very low water requirements. You should have already moved to a once per week watering schedule and turned off your sprinklers altogether when rain is expected. If you’re not ready to go cold turkey on watering, you can start by decreasing run times in some of the less visible zones of your yard.

In addition to cost savings to you on next month’s water bill, here are some other great reasons to consider lowering your water use:

The City of Round Rock uses the average of your water consumption during cooler winter months to determine wastewater charges for the rest of the year. The City assumes these months will be the lowest water use months of the year, as there is no or minimal outdoor use due to typical rainfall and climate conditions. Therefore, all the water you are using is going down the drain or is for indoor use. During the summer months, any consumption above that winter average is not charged additional wastewater fees because it is assumed to be going on your yard, or into your pool.

Believe it or not, the Brazos River Authority (BRA) is reporting drier than normal conditions at Lake Georgetown, which provides a large portion of the City of Round Rock’s drinking water. The BRA has already implemented drought contingency measures for Lake Georgetown, which includes a voluntary ask for a 5 percent reduction in water use. Though the City has not yet implement conservation stages from its drought contingency plan, Stage I could take effect once Lake Georgetown elevation’s falls below 770 feet above mean sea level (msl) for three consecutive days. It is currently just under 777 feet.

By turning off your sprinklers, you’re benefitting both your wallet and your community! For more ideas on how to save water, visit roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

CDC offers guidance for Thanksgiving activities

Gatherings during the upcoming holidays can be an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. This holiday season, consider how your holiday plans can be modified to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to keep your friends, families and communities healthy and safe. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is offering ideas for alternative ways to participate in Thanksgiving this year and recommending that you avoid higher risk activities.

Lower risk activities

  • Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family
  • Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday (don’t forget to Shop the Rock!)
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home

Moderate risk activities

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Attending a small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place

Higher risk activities

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race
  • Attending crowded parades
  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs that may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.

Considerations for hosting or attending a gathering

  • Check the COVID-19 infection rates in areas where attendees live on state, local, territorial, or tribal health department websites. Based on the current status of the pandemic, consider if it is safe to hold or attend the gathering on the proposed date.
  • Limit the number of attendees as much as possible to allow people from different households to remain at least 6 feet apart at all times. Guests should avoid direct contact, including handshakes and hugs, with others not from their household.
  • Host outdoor rather than indoor gatherings as much as possible. Even outdoors, require guests to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
  • Avoid holding gatherings in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with persons who are not in your household.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
    • For additional information on increasing ventilation, visit CDC’s information on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home.
    • Winter weather can be cold, wet, and unpredictable. Inclement weather makes it difficult to increase ventilation by opening windows or to hold an event outdoors.
  • If setting up outdoor seating under a pop-up open air tent, ensure guests are still seated with physical distancing in mind. Enclosed 4-wall tents will have less air circulation than open air tents. If outdoor temperature or weather forces you to put up the tent sidewalls, consider leaving one or more sides open or rolling up the bottom 12” of each sidewall to enhance ventilation while still providing a wind break.
  • Require guests to wear masks. At gatherings that include persons of different households, everyone should always wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose, except when eating or drinking. It is also important to stay at least 6 feet away from people who are not in your household at all times.
  • Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. Keep music levels down so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
  • Encourage attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Provide guests information about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and steps that will be in place at the gathering to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Provide and/or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help everyone to stay healthy. These include extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues. Stock bathrooms with enough hand soap and single use towels.
  • Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items such as serving utensils.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible. Use EPA-approved disinfectantsexternal icon.
  • Use touchless garbage cans if available. Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Plan ahead and ask guests to avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
  • Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people outside the household.

The more of these prevention measures that you put in place, the safer your gathering will be. No one measure is enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Food and drinks at small holiday gatherings

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19. It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging, or utensils that have the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way that the virus is spread. Remember, it is always important to follow food safety practices to reduce the risk of illness from common foodborne germs.

  • Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and for members of their own household only; avoid potluck-style gatherings.
  • Wear a mask while preparing food for or serving food to others who don’t live in your household.
  • All attendees should have a plan for where to store their mask while eating and drinking. Keep it in a dry, breathable bag (like a paper or mesh fabric bag) to keep it clean between uses.
  • Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible.
  • Have one person who is wearing a mask serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
  • Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils, and condiments.
  • Make sure everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving, and eating food and after taking trash out. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Designate a space for guests to wash hands after handling or eating food.
  • Limit crowding in areas where food is served by having one person dispense food individually to plates, always keeping a minimum of a 6-foot distance from the person whom they are serving. Avoid crowded buffet and drink stations. Change and launder linen items (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins) immediately following the event.
  • Offer no-touch trash cans for guests to easily throw away food items.
  • Wash dishes in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water immediately following the gathering.

For more information, visit cdc.gov.

Mayor Morgan: Council continues to evolve while moving community forward

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

As the country was glued to TVs and computers last week, waiting for national election results, I found myself reflecting on a framed picture of my first City Council as mayor that hangs on my wall.

Four of the seven members I served with on that council have all moved on, making way for newcomers who brought new ideas and perspectives. Each new face along the way has changed our discussions based on the various backgrounds they brought to the table.

We will soon welcome two new Council Members, Michelle Ly and Frank Ortega, who were elected by Round Rock voters in the Nov. 3 election. I was proud to see the races for both available seats on our council this year were run with honesty and integrity, and we are ready to work with our newest members to lead our community through its continued growth.

Becoming a City Council member is a little bit like drinking water from a firehose. Before their swearing in next month, our newest council members will go through an orientation process, meeting staff members and learning more about the city’s departments and operations, which include public safety, parks, utilities and environmental services, transportation, sports tourism, finance and much more. Before each meeting, council members will be given a packet of information to go over so they have questions and comments ready for staff at our packet briefings.

The seven members of Round Rock City Council serve three-year terms, with races on the ballot every year. With the potential of new council members on an annual basis, it’s important that we have a strong yet flexible framework that guides our community forward through our continued growth.

One of the keys to smooth transitions over the years has been our strategic plan, which is comprised of six goals that create a foundation for long-term city initiatives. We have an annual retreat that occurs at the beginning of each calendar year that allows us time to update and reprioritize the plan.

We’ve seen success through this long-term planning and vision casting, and must continue to do so in the coming years and decades to maintain and grow our hard-earned reputation for success. This is not to say change doesn’t happen or isn’t encouraged; growth and change are built into Round Rock’s DNA. However, it provides a level of stability that ensures we don’t lose our focus on the long-term health of our community while also taking care of more immediate needs.

I would be remiss not to mention the incredible service and dedication of our outgoing council members, Will Peckham and Tammy Young. They always came prepared to every council meeting with thoughtful questions, and they truly love this community. Their servant leadership started well before their time on the council, and they will no doubt continue to be actively involved in making our community a better place to live.

During her time on the council, Tammy served on the board of the Round Rock Chamber, the Executive Committee of the Capital Area Council of Governments, the Capital Area Economic Development District, the Clean Air Coalition and as executive liaison to the Aging Advisory Council. She has been a Round Rock school district teacher and previously led a nonprofit for children with ADHD in New Mexico to provide resources to under-served children.

During his time on the council, Will served on the Round Rock Transportation and Economic Development Corporation board of directors, the Round Rock Chamber Board of Directors, the Williamson County A&M Foundation and Whitlow Task Force for Capitol IDEA. He also previously served the city through our Ethics Review Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the 2013 Williamson County Bond Advisory Committee.

At the city of Round Rock, we aim to be an example of how to do things right in government. We are fortunate to have such amazing people in our community willing to step up and guide us through more years of growth and positive change. It’s not an easy job, but it’s one of the most rewarding ways to give back to our city. I am grateful to those who have chosen the same calling in years and decades past, and look forward to seeing what we will accomplish in the future.

Do I Really Have a Water Leak?

Dear Round Rock Water Customer:

I wanted to provide you a courtesy message to let you know that you may have a water leak at your property. If you ever receive an alert from the City regarding abnormal water consumption, you might feel a sense of confusion or panic. Do not panic, everything will be okay! First, we recommend looking all around your property to locate the leak. (That means inside and outside.) We are calling a leak 24 hours of continuous water flow through the meter. So, sometimes leaks are easy to find and sometimes you realize that the water hose was left on! In some cases, you might be left scratching your head because you did not find any signs of leaks. Therefore, we alert you so that you aren’t confused looking at a high water bill. Leaks can be outside in the yard or underground, so just because you cannot see it, does not mean it is not there! What I mean by underground is that the line from the meter to your property can have a leak. Leaks can also occur in irrigation systems, pools, under foundations, and basically anything that uses water at your house.

Who is responsible?

There is some confusion about who the leak belongs to and who is responsible for fixing it. I completely understand the confusion because some people are not aware that private leaks that go through the meter are counted as consumption. If you are alerted of a leak it is important to check your water meter. If you are not sure if the leak is yours or the city’s, the easiest answer that question is to check the water meter. If the meter shows an alert or is reading a certain water flow (Gallons per minute), then that means the water has already passed through your property line. Look at the face of the meter; it is digital and shows the gallons per minute (gpm) going through the meter in the upper left of the meter face. If any of the numbers move or if an arrow symbol appears in the upper center square (where the red circle is on the meter face to the right), that means water is flowing through the meter. This means that you are paying for the water passing through the meter into your property.  The City is not responsible for finding or fixing leaks in private property.  Again, do not panic! In many cases, leaks can be an easy fix, like a toilet leak or a faucet. In the case that the leak is something you cannot fix, then you will have to hire a professional. That is why we try to alert people as soon as possible. The faster you can find and fix a water leak, the less expensive your water bill will be.

Will This Leak Effect My Water Bill?

I receive this question a lot, and it is understandable. If you are not intentionally using water, then it might be frustrating to have to pay for it. That is why we strongly recommend checking your water usage at your property regularly. To view your monthly, daily, or hourly water usage, register at our customer portal at www.RRTXwater.com.  (Please note you need your CID-account number to register.) You will be able to see an easy to read line graph that represents your water usage! This is a great way to keep an eye on your water usage and catch anything that looks abnormal. Many people have learned that their toilet refills for hours in the middle of the night. Many people also realize that their irrigation system runs in the middle of the day rather than at night. Some people might even be more conscious about their water habits after seeing how much water they use in a day. Catching leaks fast prevents not only high bills but water damage to your property!

If you do have water leak, you will most likely be contacted by us, but it is important to keep an eye out for anything that looks like a leak. Hopefully, this has settled some confusion regarding leaks on private property. Here is more information about leaks.

https://www.roundrocktexas.gov/departments/utilities-and-environmental-services/water/water-leaks/

CDC offers guidance for Halloween activities

When the weather cools off, it’s a good sign that holiday season is coming soon to Round Rock. In true 2020 fashion, holidays — including Halloween — will most likely look a little different from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many traditional Halloween activities, in particular, can be high-risk for spreading viruses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency is offering ideas for several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween this year.

The City of Round Rock does not set a specific day or time for trick-or-treating. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Lower risk activities

These lower risk activities are listed as the safest alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Moderate risk activities

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
    • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
    • Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.

Higher risk activities

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

Learn more at cdc.gov

Imagine a Day Without Water

We use water every day for almost every single activity in our lives. The City of Round Rock Water Utility participates in Imagine a Day Without Water to remind residents of the importance of water in our everyday lives. In this blog, I would like to highlight some important processes that water goes through to get to you! Learning about your water’s journey will help you understand the importance of conserving water.

Water shortages seem farfetched in economically prosperous cities like ours, but the problem is immanent everywhere. It might be hard to imagine a day without water because that concept seems so foreign to us!

Fresh water in cities must meet peak demand for millions of people every day. Infrastructure for clean water and wastewater must be kept up to standards and safe for the public. These are very important parts of our drinking water system that most people fail to recognize and take for granted. I was one of those people before I started learning about water conservation. That is why we want to educate as many people as we can so that everyone can understand the importance of water and work together to save it!

Our Main Water Source

Between 12-35 million gallons of water is pumped out of Lake Georgetown a day! Can you guess what time of year we use the highest amount of water?  Summer! Water demand spikes as lawn irrigation increases.

 

 

 

 

Our Water Treatment Plant                                                                                                                      

This important infrastructure turns the water that comes from Lake Georgetown into safe and clean drinking water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Water to You

There are miles and miles of pipes that bring water from Lake Georgetown. This hidden infrastructure carries water to the water treatment plant, water towers, your home, and the wastewater treatment plant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Waste Water Treatment Plant

Everything that goes down a drain including sinks, toilets, washers, shows, tubs, and more end up here! Wastewater is turned into clean water through many sanitation processes. This water will be returned to Brushy Creek or sent to our reuse water customers.

 

 

 

Now that you have learned a little bit about our city’s water system, it is time to act! Participate in Imagine a Day Without Water by checking out our information booth at the Round Rock library  through the entire month of October! We will provide information and goodies about how to keep our water clean, abundant, and healthy.

Residents of all ages are invited to participate in the City of Round Rock’s Imagine a Day Without Water Art Contest! This fun and creative activity can help raise awareness on the importance of water in our everyday lives. Posters will be judged on artistry, creativity, originality, and the ability to communicate the importance of water in our everyday lives.

Click on the flyer for to join!

 

Teen coalition hosts drive through voter registration event at RRHS on Sunday, Oct. 4

Zach Moser and Mainur Khan, Round Rock High students and members of the Austin Teen Coalition, give a thumbs up to voter registration.

Zach Moser and Mainur Khan, Round Rock High students and members of the Austin Teen Coalition, give a thumbs up to voter registration.

The Austin Teen Coalition, Round Rock ISD and Youth Service America will conduct a drive through voter registration event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, at Round Rock High School. Oct. 5 is the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 3 election.

The registration will take place at the front entrance of the “new” building, 201 Deepwood Drive. Those who register will get a snack from Chick-fil-A and be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

City of Round Rock elections will be held on Nov. 3 this year instead of May

The ballot will include three City Council seats and seven proposed amendments to the City Charter. Voters will cast ballots for Mayor, Place 1 and Place 4 on the City Council. Mayor Morgan will run unopposed. Michelle Ly and Tina Steiner are running for Place 1. Current Place 1 Councilmember Tammy Young is not seeking re-election. Place 4 Councilmember Will Peckham is seeking re-election. He will be challenged by Frank Ortega. 

Election information

You can find information on City of Round Rock elections here

Early voting is currently scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 13 to Friday, Oct. 30. For more information, including information about ballot by mail, visit the Williamson County Elections Department’s and Travis County Elections Department’s websites.

Community Foundation honors Round Rock citizens for philanthropy

The Greater Round Rock Community Foundation presented three philanthropy awards Sept. 23 at its second annual Legacy Luncheon. The event spotlights the non-profit community of Williamson County and the good work being done by those organizations, their volunteers and the businesses who generously support them.

The Unsung Hero Award — which recognizes quiet volunteers who give of their time, talent or treasure — was presented to the Citizens of Round Rock for their generous contributions as a community to the Round Rock Cares fund. Their donations provided over $400,000 in financial assistance to the small businesses of Round Rock in the early days of the pandemic. Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan was a driving force behind the creation of Round Rock Cares, which provided needed funds to local businesses before federal aid became available.

Dell Technologies was presented with the Nancy Rabb Legacy Award which recognizes a business who has made a difference by giving back to their community. Dell Technologies was honored for its leadership with Round Rock Cares and their commendable corporate culture of giving.

The last award, the Impact Award, is given to a local non-profit that is changing our community in an impactful way. The YMCA of Williamson County was selected this year for not only the incredible programs and services that have served the community for decades, but also for stepping up this year to provide camps and childcare for the children of first responders and essential workers during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Take a peek inside America’s largest indoor waterpark

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions reveals a never-before-seen inside look at its newest resort in Round Rock, Texas, with a 360-degree video tour of America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark and resort, opening Nov. 12. The video offers a behind-the-scenes view of the property, including a guided tour of construction progress updates.

“We can’t wait to open our doors and welcome the Texas community to the Kalahari experience this fall,” said Kalahari owner Todd Nelson. “We have 1.5 million square feet of space to play and room to roam. It’s been a challenging year, and what better way to get away from the worry and enjoy time having fun together as a family and community.”

Kalahari Resorts also introduces Tim Arnold as resort general manager and Gerson Valasquez as assistant general manager of Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, Round Rock.

As general manager, Tim Arnold will lead day-to-day operations, provide guidance to the management team and serve as the liaison to the regional Round Rock community. Tim brings more than 20 years of hospitality experience with a successful career in luxury resorts and regional multiunit, cutting-edge restaurant and residential properties. Notably, he has held executive leadership roles at Waldorf Astoria, Canyon Ranch, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, and Interstate Hotels and Resorts.

In his role as assistant general manager, Gerson Valasquez leverages 20 years of experience leading high-volume catering and banquet divisions, managing operations of fine-dining restaurants, and supporting the management of rooms, food and beverage and maintenance departments at properties in Houston, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia.

“Tim and Gerson both bring a strong history of successfully building and leading teams, and we’re confident that they’ll help us bring Kalahari’s beyond-expectations guest experience to Texas,” said Nelson.

Kalahari continues to seek additional talent to join its growing team, estimating hiring 700 employees in 2020 to fill open positions, including lifeguards, managerial staff, culinary staff and information technology work. For more information, visit kalahariresorts.com/kalahari-careers/.

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions will open America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark in Round Rock, Texas, on Nov. 12. The unique all-under-one-roof experience offers state-of-the-art meeting and convention space, delicious dining options, award-winning indoor/outdoor attractions, retail shopping, and Spa Kalahari and Salon. This is the fourth Kalahari Resort, with existing properties in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information about Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, visit KalahariResorts.com/Texas.

Drive-through Career Fair

Kalahari is hiring! The company held a “drive thru” Career Fair from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, at the resort, 3001 Kalahari Blvd., Gate 3. Jobs are available in housekeeping, waterpark, food and beverage, culinary and front office.

Mayor Morgan: City’s economic indicators show promise

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

Any athlete knows that endurance is important. However, as we enter the sixth month of COVID-19′s presence in Central Texas, it’s still unclear how far the finish line lies ahead.

In a survey distributed by the city of Round Rock in April about the effects of COVID-19, 72 percent of respondents said the economic impact of the pandemic on our local community was a primary concern of theirs. We’ve continued monitoring economic conditions and have recently been able to obtain better and more localized data. I’m happy to report the economic decline has not been as deep as we originally prepared ourselves for — however, we still do not completely understand the duration, or how long these conditions will continue to impact our community. In general, Round Rock has fared better than we expected.

While unemployment was still in double digits nationally in July, our local unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent, down from 10.7 percent in April. However, that’s still triple the percentage it was at the beginning of this year. We are fortunate to have a diverse economy, especially one that is not dependent on oil, as many of our neighbors across Texas are.

Strong sales tax revenues are a big reason that our property tax rate in Round Rock compares favorably to cities around us and across the state, but sales tax is also a volatile revenue source that can drop in times of economic distress. At the start of the pandemic, the city had collected $1.4 million above this year’s expected sales tax revenues. At that time, we thought we might be able to have a surplus of $3 to $4 million by the end of the year that could be used to free up funding for more projects. While we haven’t gained the ground we expected, we haven’t seen a loss in the ground we already had gained. We saw a surge in sales tax revenues in March and April from one specific business – Dell Technologies – and the reopening of retail establishments in June helped re-establish local spending. Most of our major retailers have reopened – IKEA, Round Rock Premium Outlets, movie theaters and some of our big box retailers. Many restaurants have also been able to remain open. However, entertainment venues have suffered a tremendous impact. Bars closed again on June 26 based on statewide orders, and Dell Diamond did not have a minor league season. Other businesses have just not been able to weather the economic downturn. The good news is, although we saw a dip in consumer confidence in April, it has bounced back and is trending upward again.

Occupancy in local hotels is also increasing after a drop in April. Our peak season for tourism is March through June, which saw the biggest impact from COVID-19-related closures. These revenues, which support local tourism efforts and our Sports Capital of Texas initiatives, were down 28 percent for that peak period compared to last year.

 

Overall, development is strong. Although some businesses have not been able to survive the current economic conditions, many of our businesses are using this moment to pivot and thrive. Our local and small businesses are a huge part of our community, because they are owned and supported by people right here in Round Rock. One of my biggest sources of hope through this pandemic was Round Rock Cares, a local fund that was established to support these types of businesses, which raised $419,500 that helped 241 small businesses. I hope we continue that spirit of supporting our local businesses moving forward.

As we take a brief moment to reflect on the positive indicators we are seeing, we know that we cannot let our guard down. We all must continue to follow state and CDC guidelines to suppress the spread of COVID-19 so that our economy can continue to thrive and residents can continue to make a living. By remaining diligent in our health practices and supporting each other, we will continue to get through this together.