Playing the long game

Known as the Sports Capital of Texas, the City of Round Rock has invested in promoting economic diversity by developing a sports-focused tourism program. With a variety of indoor and outdoor sports facilities, the City plays host to national tournaments, as well as hometown playoffs. 

Round Rock has a key advantage over other cities across the state when attracting youth and adult athletes in amateur and recreational sports: a central location within a three-hour drive from 90 percent of the state’s population. 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.

While the economic data is a little old, you may wonder what sports tourism has done for us lately. Glad you asked! We hosted five national championships in 2018, installed LED stadium lighting at Dell Diamond and celebrated the grand re-opening of Forest Creek Golf Club. More national championships are already on the calendar for 2019, including US Quidditch, USA Ultimate D-1 (college) and NIRSA Flag Football (actually January 2020 for the 2019 regular season), and new seats are being installed at Dell Diamond.

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.

Growing together, one neighborhood at a time

Round Rock is only as strong as our neighborhoods. That’s why one of our strategic priorities focuses on sustaining them all — old and new. We have programs that encourage connectivity and outreach, so as our population grows, we won’t grow apart.
 

Sustainable neighborhoods has been a strategic priority since 2012, when the City created a Neighborhood Services Program. The City Council’s goals for sustainable neighborhoods include:

  • Increase curb appeal for existing residents and enticing prospective residents
  • Maintain or increase property values for ad valorem tax
  • Help foster a sense of community between neighbors
  • Help elderly and disabled residents remain in their homes
  • Reduce code violations
  • Reduce negative communication from residents such as calls, emails and residents attending council meetings to discuss neighborhood quality of life issues
  • Make neighborhoods that are older, lower income or ethnically diverse feel included in the City’s resources
  • Creating a one-stop shop for all neighborhood quality of life issues for residents and neighborhood leaders. No more phone tree transfer for questions and issues.

To achieve these goals, the Community Development Division developed and implemented programs for neighborhoods to utilize in partnership with the City. 

Programs

  • The Tool Lending Center is designed to be deployed for organized projects such as neighborhood cleanups or other beautification projects where volunteers (scouts, church groups, school groups, etc.) are organized and available.  For neighborhood cleanups, tools will be available for residents of that neighborhood to checkout. During cleanups volunteers borrow tools from the TLC and work on homes whose residents are elderly, disabled, etc. Round Rock’s TLC was the first of its kind in the State of Texas. To date over 3,400 tools have been checked out and 4,500 volunteers have contributed 18,000 hours of volunteer service with the TLC.
  • The Neighborhood Movie Chest is available to Neighborhoods and HOAs that are organizing a community movie night. In today’s digital world, opportunities for neighbors to interact and get to know one another are becoming few and far between. The neighborhood movie kit allows neighborhoods to host a fun, easy event to bring neighbors together. The secret to the program is not the movie itself, but rather the opportunity to encourage neighborhoods to have ancillary events with the movie night designed to get residents to interact with one another. Neighborhoods can do a pot-luck dinner, or pot-luck desert, ice-cream social, beer or wine tasting and even a BBQ competition.
  • The Curb Painting Program was initiated to improve safety in Round Rock neighborhoods by making sure that the Fire Department, EMS, and Police can quickly locate homes in an emergency. Neighborhood volunteers can borrow the all-inclusive kit at no cost to begin painting addresses within their neighborhood. Keep Neighborhood Watch teams active and engaged with this easy to maintain program.
  • Round Rock UniverCity is a 10-week program designed to engage and educate residents on the operations of the City.  UniverCity participants get to experience firsthand the work it takes to run a city department. Each City department hosts a presentation, tour or break out session each week, and provide valuable information about day to day operations of the City and future projects. Residents will receive an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into City operations within each of its departments.
  • The Lawn Care Foster Program is designed to supply neighborhood leaders with lawn maintenance equipment that their neighbors can borrow in the event of code enforcement violations. The City supplies a lawn mower, weed edger and safety equipment to a neighborhood leader who then becomes the “foster” of the equipment and lends it to neighbors in need who receive a code violation for tall grass. The City supplies a resource for the resident, alleviates a code case quicker and helps to provide a resource to keep neighborhood organizations active for a minimal investment.
  • The Fence Staining Kit — Staining and sealing a wood fence can protect the beauty and value of homes. Even if a fence is weathered and covered by gray oxidation and mold, it can be restored it to its original finish and then stained and seal it, making it look beautiful for years to come. The average cost to clean and stain can be between $800 and $1,000. Residents can borrow a pressure washer and professional grade paint sprayer at no cost from the City to clean and stain their own fence. Homes along major traffic corridors are eligible for rebates.
  • Block Party Trailer — Block Parties are a great way to meet neighbors.  They provide a casual relaxed setting where residents can meet, play, eat, and hopefully, find similarities that bring them closer together.  With a little effort a neighborhood of strangers can be transformed into a connected community of families that care for each other and the overall health and vibrancy of their neighborhood.
By working together, we’re creating a welcome mat not just for our homes, but for our entire community.

This is serious business

Quality of life is inextricably tied to a strong local economy. That’s why the City of Round Rock has a long history of striking economic development agreements designed to bring good jobs to the community and sustainable revenue to the City. And the expansion to our tax base is one reason why the City property tax rate is among the lowest in the region.
 
Those agreements have paid off to the tune of $375 million in revenue to the City over the years. Those funds have helped pay for new roads, trails, fire stations, police officers and a host of amenities that make Round Rock such a great place to call home. Nearly 14,000 jobs have been created, and more than $500 million in capital investment has been made in our community as a result of those agreements.
 
Round Rock’s recent business recruitment successes were recognized last month when the City’s Momentum partnership with the Round Rock Chamber received a Gold Excellence award from the International Economic Development Council.  

Last year, the Chamber released the results of an economic impact analysis that evaluated our economic development project wins from 2012 to 2017. The analysis, which was performed by Impact DataSource, looked at the performance of our work through Momentum, our five-year public-private partnership that funds our economic development efforts. During the time period analyzed (2012-2017), we successfully completed 50 economic development projects. Here’s the impact those projects have had:

  • Through 2017, those projects will generate an economic impact of $2.4 billion annually
  • The total number of jobs created directly, indirectly, or through induced behavior was 8,273 for a cumulative workers’ earnings of approximately $1.4 billion
  • The additional revenue for the community’s three main taxing entities during the four-year analysis period equals over $53 million

Our economic development efforts play a vital role in the local economy by growing local enterprises, expanding and diversifying the existing economic base, broadening the tax base, and attracting and retaining sustainable, well-paying jobs.

All that makes for a seriously good deal for Round Rock.

 

 

We take play seriously in Round Rock

Note: Success doesn’t happen by accident. For the City of Round Rock, it’s been a decades-long process of strategic planning and methodical execution. The Future Forward series highlights our efforts to manage Round Rock’s rapid growth. 


When it comes to taking the long view on City needs, it should come as no surprise we have master plans for transportation and water to ensure these basic needs are met as Round Rock makes its way to an ultimate population of 250,000. But we take our parks and recreation amenities just as seriously, because we know they play such a key role in making this community a place you love to call home.

To give you a sense of how busy our Parks and Recreation Department stays, consider these numbers for participation in programs, events and facilities:

  • 713,035 users of Clay Madsen Recreation Center​
  • 253,625 users of Allen Baca Center
  • 75,219 participants in recreation programs​
  • 161 events/tournaments supported by PARD​
  • 38,128 hours of facility rentals at PARD facilities​
  • 21,034 hours of athletic field usage on PARD fields​
  • 136,478 users of PARD pools

The department rides herd on more than 1,500 acres of developed parkland and 740 acres of undeveloped parkland. But as more folks move to Round Rock, we know the demands on our system will grow too, which is why our master plan for parks and recreation gets updated about every ten years. The most recent update, Playbook 2030, was approved by the City Council this past August.

The master plan is needed to:

  • Point out deficiencies in the existing parks system​
  • Look at potential growth of the City over the next 5-10 years and assesses where additional facilities will be needed​
  • Guide the acquisition of land to meet current and future open space needs​
  • Prioritize recommendations so the most significant deficiencies are addressed as quickly as possible​
  • Guide City leaders in determining where and how parks and recreation funding should be allocated over the next 5 years​

A survey and series of public meetings were used to engage the public as the plan was being developed. We heard from residents that what they want is more trails, more shade, more natural areas, more parks and more fitness opportunities. 

The parks staff identified the following needs: facility repairs, expansions and upgrades​; additional practice space​; additional parkland and recreational programming space​; and grow Old Settlers Park and continue to plan for expansion and upgrades to accommodate and serve future residents. The plan includes a series of goals to accomplish the identified needs. 

The No. 1 goal in the master plan is to link the community. The City should provide a trail and open space system which links parks, schools, greenbelts, neighborhoods, places of employment, retail shops, restaurants and open spaces​.

Other goals target: community cohesion through the creation of special places and programs unique to Round Rock; taking care of what we have by developing a sustainable system; being great environmental stewards through landscape management and maintenance practices and natural resource preservation, as well as continuing to conserve, protect, and enhance the community’s environmentally and culturally sensitive areas; and finally, distributing our resources equitably throughout the community.

All this future planning has taken place at the same time our Parks staff has been busy working on $56.5 million in projects approved by voters in a 2013 bond election. Highlights include expansion of the Rock’N River Family Aquatic Center, Soccer Complex improvements at Old Settlers Park and a major expansion of our trail system.

Taking care of business today while making sure we’re on top of our planning game is what Future Forward is all about.

Training to keep Round Rock safe today, tomorrow

Note: Success doesn’t happen by accident. For the City of Round Rock, it’s been a decades-long process of strategic planning and methodical execution. The Future Forward series highlights our efforts to manage Round Rock’s rapid growth. 


Police Chief Allen Banks is all smiles as he gives a tour of the new Public Safety Training Center.

Round Rock has well-deserved reputation for being one of the safest cities in the country, and the new Public Safety Training Center will ensure it stays that way for generations to come.

The new state-of-the-art facility features training offices and classrooms, an indoor shooting range, training village with fire training props, five-story burn tower and driving skills course.

“Quality training is critical to our community,” City Manager Laurie Hadley said. “Providing the best possible training environment for our public safety officers is essential to keep up with the demands of our growing city and will control training costs long-term.”

Voters approved funding for the project during the 2013 bond election

Police and Fire officials will tell you the type of training most important to our public safety personnel involve practicing low frequency, high risk incidents. Fortunately, there’s not much on the job training for active shooters and trench cave-ins. But when those scenarios play out in real life, our crews must be able to respond with confidence and efficiency to save lives.

But the key date in the project timeline would be 2005, when the City Council approved the purchase of the current Police Headquarters building that sits on 73 acres, with a future vision of using the additional property as a training facility. That foresight meant that when voters approved the funds for the state-of-the-art facility, all those resources went into the facility itself, with none needed for the land. Round Rock was thinking Future Forward more than a decade ago about its public safety needs.

By the numbers

• $29,000,000 construction cost
• 65,000 sq. ft. main building
• 214 students can be seated in large classroom
• 50-yard shooting range
• 5 story burn tower
• 2 Departments share this facility
• 1 driving skills pad
• 6 residential structures for tactics training

Long-term approach to finances keeps City affordable yet awesome

Note: Success doesn’t happen by accident. For the City of Round Rock, it’s been a decades-long process of strategic planning and methodical execution. The Future Forward series highlights our efforts to manage Round Rock’s rapid growth. 


Taking the long view on finances helps keep Round Rock one of the best, most affordable places to live in the United States. We ranked No. 4, in fact, in a study done a couple of years of ago that looked at the most affordable places that you’d actually want to live in.

Every year, prior to the Council’s annual budget deliberations, the City Council takes a hard look at our long-term financial planning and five-year outlook. The City CFO reported in June that Round Rock’s financial outlook remains strong and stable.

The City’s recent business recruiting successes, along with sales tax growth and a long-term approach to strategic planning are key to ensuring financial stability.

Our Strategic Plan provides a north star to guide City planning and budgeting. The City Council reviews and updates the Strategic Plan annually, at a retreat in February. Round Rock’s strategic priorities are:

  • Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services
  • City Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow
  • Great Community to Live
  • “The Sports Capital of Texas” for Tourism and Residents
  • Authentic Downtown — Exciting Community Destination
  • Sustainable Neighborhoods — Old and New

Knowing where we’re going in the future makes today’s spending decisions that much more effective.

Here are the assumptions going into our five-year forecast:

  • Population growth continues in the 2.5 percent to 2.8 percent range, which means a population of 128,000 by 2023
  • Local development and economic growth continue, estimated at 20-25 percent over five years
  • Stable state and national outlook
  • Current Council goals continue as guiding direction (business friendly, family focused, sports tourism, strong public safety)
  • Kalahari Resorts will open as expected in FY 2021

So what are we doing with that forecast information? One of the most significant is working toward a more balanced mix of General Fund revenue (the General Fund is what pays for basic services like Police, Fire and Parks). Currently, the General Fund is comprised of 45 percent sales tax revenue, 32 percent property tax revenue, 23 percent other taxes and fees. By 2023, we project a balance of sales tax and property tax at 40 percent.

The balance means more stability for the City, since sales tax is a more volatile source of revenue. The forecast assumes modest growth in sales tax revenue over the next five years. The projection still maintains the City’s position as having one of the area’s lowest city property tax rates.

But as we noted up top, Round Rock’s not about being the cheapest. It’s about creating a community where you actually want to live, that’s safe, with great parks, a dynamic library and well-maintained streets. Where we implement the long-term plans for water and transportation that will ensure its livability for generations to come.

It just makes cents.

Focused on the road ahead

Note: Success doesn’t happen by accident. For the City of Round Rock, it’s been a decades-long process of strategic planning and methodical execution. The Future Forward series highlights our efforts to manage Round Rock’s rapid growth. 


It should surprise absolutely no one who’s lived here more than 5 minutes the issue most vexing to Round Rock residents is traffic. We get it. We drive in it every day, too.  

The problem, in a nutshell, is too many vehicles for not enough lanes of pavement. Duh, right? So how do you solve that problem? Simple: Create new connections and expand the road network. Duh, again. (And, yes, there are solutions other than laying down more asphalt, like transit and such. Patience, dear reader.) 

Of course, the create-new-connections and expand-the-roadway-network solution is complicated by the fact that we have an interstate highway and major state roads running through the community over which we have limited to no control. 

And then there’s paying for those new connections and roadway expansions. That’s not complicated, it’s just expensive.  

Back to complicated: Where do those connections/expansions need to be added, and when? 

Those questions are answered the Transportation Master Plan approved by the City Council in October 2017.  The Master Plan’s vision is to improve all forms of connectivity, including roads and public transportation, through planning and policy choices, partnerships, dedicated funding and targeted construction so that quality of life, economic opportunity and public safety are enhanced. 

Easier said than done, of course. The plan’s price tag is $1.2 billion. That’s a huge number but bear in mind that gets us to Round Rock’s ultimate build-out, when our population will be 250,000. To put that number into perspective: Since Round Rock’s half-cent sales tax for transportation went into effect in 1998, more than $533 million worth of projects have been completed. Of that, $203 million in funding came from the half-cent sales tax. The City used the sales tax revenue to leverage county, state and federal funds, as well as tapped private development contributions, to get to the total. (More perspective: Round Rock’s population was 61,212 in 1998.) So $1.2 billion is doable, over the long haul.  

Back to the question of precisely where the new roads need to go and when to build them. The Master Plan features a list of projects, ranked from 1 to 55, that are also segmented into short-term (2017-2020), mid-term (2020-2030) and long-term (2030-2040). The rankings are prioritized by the following measures: Safety and mobility (45%), connectivity (25%), environment (15%) and cost (15%). 

Work is currently under way on 8 of the top ten projects. Why not all 10? That brings us back to limited resources. We only have so much funding at the present time. There’s $53 million allocated in the City’s current budget for all things transportation. That total includes a mix of General Fund revenue, Type B revenue (that’s the sales tax we referenced two paragraphs ago) and our General Self Financed Construction Fund, which is fueled by excess General Fund revenues or unspent General Fund budget.  

The City has also submitted nearly $40 million in grant applications to CAMPO earlier this year for transportation funding.   

The Master Plan calls for finding new, sustainable sources of funding. A new method the City is considering is Roadway Impact Fees on new development. Roadway Impact Fees are one-time costs assessed to developers in order to improve roadway capacity. Public input is scheduled to occur this summer, and a draft ordinance is expected to be presented to City Council this fall. 

The City Council has had early discussions about a possible bond election for road projects, something it is likely to discuss in more detail at its budget retreat on July 12.  

Yes, dear and patient reader, we are also working on public transportation solutions. You can learn more about current transit services here, which grew from the Transit Master Plan we completed in 2015.  

We didn’t even get into other transportation options, like hike and bike trails, but we’ve got a plan for those as well, along with $21.6 million in bond funds targeted for four trail projects that will make staying off those frustrating roads a lot easier. 

Throw all those plans and options together, and you can see Round Rock is built for less stop and more go. 

Our water runs deep

Note: Success doesn’t happen by accident. For the City of Round Rock, it’s been a decades-long process of strategic planning and methodical execution. The Future Forward series highlights our efforts to manage Round Rock’s rapid growth. 


“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”
– Sylvia Earle, marine biologist 

Hard to state it any more simply than that. Water may very well be the most important service provided by the City of Round Rock.  

So we take it seriously, and have for the past 40 years. That’s why the City is so well positioned today to have enough water when Round Rock reaches its projected ultimate population of 250,000. That’s decades away, but when you’re talking about planning a water utility, that’s the kind of time horizon you look at. 

That doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t worry about conserving water. By all means, take advantage of the City’s many conservation programs and educate yourself on how you can lower your bills by watering wisely. 

But one of the key elements in Round Rock’s ability to manage its inexorable growth is a forward-thinking utility that delivers reliable, affordable water.  

Long story short, Round Rock pretty much ran out of water in 1978. The combination of a prolonged drought, sole reliance on the Edwards Aquifer and rapid residential development meant folks went without water for a short period of time. City leaders vowed then to never put the community in that kind of situation again, and that led to the development of the strong, stable water utility we have today. 

How strong? The last round of debt issued by the utility, in December 2017, earned an AAA credit rating from Standard and Poor’s, the highest possible. Round Rock is the only Central Texas city with this rating for its utility.  

That rating was the culmination of four decades of hard work. After the wells went dry in ’78, the City contracted with the Brazos River Authority (BRA) to purchase water from Lake Georgetown. The City built a plant on the north end of town to treat that water. As growth continued, the City acquired future water supplies from the BRA, and ultimately partnered with other utilities to build a 28-mile pipeline to Lake Stillhouse Hollow near Belton.  

The forward thinking continued in 2006, when Round Rock partnered with Cedar Park and Leander to create the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority to treat and deliver water from Lake Travis. (There was no more future water to be acquired from the BRA.) Phase 1 of the regional project was completed in 2012, and Cedar Park and Leander have been utilizing the system for their customers since then. Round Rock isn’t expected to need Lake Travis water until 2020. 

So the water is there, and the infrastructure is in place, when we do need it. And will continue to be, even when our population more than doubles. That’s what Future Forward is all about.