Mayor Morgan: Sales tax must be addressed by Legislature

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


Mayor Craig Morgan

The 87th session of the Texas Legislature opened last week, setting off months of decision-making in our state’s Capitol.

Although many of the issues discussed will have little bearing on cities across the state, the amount that do are not insignificant. During the 2019 session, more than 300 of the 1,400 bills and resolutions that were signed into law directly impacted local city government in some way. Unfortunately, many of these bills acted to limit the control we have locally to decide what’s right for our own communities — a dangerous trend that municipal leaders have been fighting over the past few years. Texas is a large state with cities that have unique traits and needs, and one-size-all approaches tend to have unintended consequences.

Cities represent the level of government closest to the people. Residents experience the benefits of our services every day, from the delivery of their drinking water, to the roads they drive on and public safety that they can rely on. It’s important we have the ability and flexibility to provide these services in a consistent, quality manner that our residents have come to expect.

One of the most important issues for our community this legislative session will be modifications to local sales and use tax rules. Currently, 2 percent of sales tax on everything sold within Round Rock stays local to better residents’ quality of life and lower their cost of living. However, a new rule could mean that some sales tax revenue generated by Round Rock businesses would benefit the city on the receiving end of the sale.

Dell Technologies is the city of Round Rock’s largest sales tax generator, contributing to our public safety, transportation network, parks, library and more. Dell’s move to Round Rock in the early 1990s was made possible through a Chapter 380 agreement, which is a section of the Local Government Code that authorizes cities to offer incentives to businesses to encourage economic development. Over the first 25 years of the agreement, Round Rock has collected $245 million in municipal sales tax revenues and $123 million through a voter-approved half-cent sales tax that is dedicated solely to property tax relief. In addition, the city’s Type B Economic Development Corporation has collected $120 million to build infrastructure, such as roads, to encourage future economic development.

It’s safe to say that our economic development agreement with Dell has played a huge role in the affordable quality of life we’re able to offer residents.

In February 2020, I spoke in opposition to proposed changes to a sales tax sourcing rule by the Texas comptroller’s office. The rule proposed sending sales tax revenue from internet purchases to the buyer’s location instead of the seller’s place of business. The change meant that almost all of Dell’s local sales taxes will be redistributed to the location in Texas where orders are delivered. The rules as initially proposed could reduce Round Rock’s revenues from sales tax by catastrophic levels.

Although the rules adopted in May do not appear to be as damaging as earlier versions, they will still have a notable negative impact to the city’s revenues when they go into effect on Oct. 1, 2021. We will continue to seek changes to the rules during this legislative session before the October effective date to preserve these revenues, which fund basic services, capital projects and property tax relief for our citizens.

We understand that some changes to sales tax rules are needed to comply with legislation passed last session in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., which held that states may charge tax on purchases made from out-of-state sellers. However, without more practical solutions, this state-level decision could have serious unintended impacts for our local community and the value of the services we are able to provide.

The good news is that other Texas cities are working shoulder to shoulder with us in this battle. Also fighting with us is state Sen. Charles Schwertner, who was instrumental in organizing several of his fellow senators in support of Round Rock and many other adversely impacted cities in this state, and state Rep. James Talarico, who asked many important questions of several testifying witnesses and made a clear case for Round Rock and Dell at the Ways & Means Committee hearing.

There’s too much at stake not to fight this proposal every step of the way, and I look forward to working with our legislators and the comptroller to devise solutions that will avoid serious impacts on the basic, every day services that make us proud to call Round Rock home.

Halley: Looking back at Round Rock Library’s growth

Geeta Halley is the Assistant Director of the Round Rock Public Library and writes a column for the Round Rock Leader.


Geeta Halley, Assistant Director of Round Rock Public Library

As I write this, 2020 is on its last legs. The turning of the clock to the new year is often a time of reflection and remembrance of lessons learned, losses endured and blessings received.

New Year’s Eve 2019 was different for me in this regard: to honor the dawn of 2020, a fresh decade, I decided not to do a roundup of the past year or decade but instead look forward. Today, as the last few hours of 2020 slip away, I look back to see if absolutely everything was awful, or if any progress was made despite the events that have made it such a difficult and tumultuous year. Without question, in the world of technology, events influenced their evolution and adoption. I adapted to Zoom and Teams both at work and in my personal life. In a strange twist of “too much of a good thing” with regards to technology, I found myself returning to basics. Cooking in the absence of closed restaurants. Walking outside in the absence of closed gyms. Reading books – not e-books on a tablet or device, but physical print books – to escape from screen-time fatigue.

When the library was closed during March and April, we surveyed our customers to see what they missed most about the library. Their response delighted us: they missed physically browsing books on the library shelves! To better facilitate this browsing experience in the pandemic era (when limiting patrons’ time in the building is sadly essential), Linda Sappenfield, one of our reference librarians, created a ‘Book Deli.’ The Book Deli menu, curated by Linda and our other librarians skilled in “Reader’s Advisory,” consisted of old and new favorites, award-winners, staff recommendations, often grouped around a particular theme. In November, the menu theme was wellness titles. December was award winners. Visit the library’s website to see various thematic menus ranging from popular fiction, heartwarming reads, time travel and current issues.

Sometimes it is difficult finding a good, clean read that still has an interesting, adult plot and keeps you engaged for hundreds of pages. I agree with book blogger Mrs. Ladywordsmith when she writes, “None of us likes to be surprised with strong language, sexually explicit scenes, or things that make us cringe. That said, we’re not taking time to read boring fluff. Reading is our personal escape to challenge our minds and go places. We want books with good plots, strong characters, and realistic experiences. So, what do we read?”

For those who share this sentiment and want a classic menu of “just a good book” to curl up with by the fireplace here are a few well-written favorites:

  • “The Light between the Oceans” by M.L. Stedman
  • “The Fixer” by Jennifer Barnes
  • “My Ántonia” by Willa Cather
  • “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck
  • “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
  • “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven” by Fannie Flagg
  • “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd
  • “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
  • “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
  • “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
  • “These Is My Words” by Nancy Turner

For younger children, I recommend tuning in to our online storytime “Pause and Play with the storytime librarians”. The storytime librarians, Ms. Jane, Ms. Virginia, and Ms. Andrea, create short videos to share a fun rhyme, song or book. New videos are uploaded onto a playlist at the official city of Round Rock YouTube channel, then shared on Facebook and (as of mid-May) Instagram IGTV Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.

As 2020 wanes away, I am thankful for the beneficial takeaways and unintended consequences that have sparked growth and beauty amidst the loss and isolation. For being forced to slow down and cultivate patience. For the pleasant process of curling up and savoring a good book. Thank you 2020 for the lessons I have been forced to learn!

Mayor Morgan: Plans for Downtown Round Rock move forward

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


Mayor Craig Morgan

Many years ago, I was block walking in the Stone Oak subdivision in Northwest Round Rock. At the time, I was living in Southeast Round Rock. One resident told me, “It seems like you live so far from where I live – why can’t we have a downtown where we can meet and gather?”

Even as our city grows, Downtown serves as a reminder of what makes Round Rock unique. Whether it’s meeting friends over a relaxed meal, shopping or doing business with local entrepreneurs or making memories with our families, Downtown represents so many ways that we can stay connected as a community.

It’s been difficult this year to feel connected with our neighbors and friends in the traditional sense. When the COVID-19 pandemic first reached our community and business closures were implemented to slow the spread of the virus, I was sad to see so many open parking spaces in front of our Downtown businesses on my drive to City Hall. Some of our favorite Downtown events, such as Music on Main, were canceled earlier this year to slow the spread of the virus.

As we’ve navigated through this pandemic, we’ve found ways to incorporate safe ways to help residents enjoy the holidays. Christmas Family Night was canceled this year, but we put together our Light up the Lake event earlier this month, which allowed us to host an event at Old Settlers Park with better safety guidelines in place. We have been able to bring back our Hometown Holiday lights Downtown this holiday season and hope you take the chance to enjoy them. It’s hard to not feel the Christmas spirit as you take an outdoor stroll along the lit paths or take a drive to gaze at the decorations.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit Downtown Round Rock recently, you will be amazed at how much more work has been accomplished in just a short year. The City has completed six “parklets” on East Main Street between Mays Street and Sheppard Street, which include new trees, tables and chairs, additional landscaping, lighting elements and expanded walkable space for pedestrians. New lighting and sidewalks also provide pedestrians safer access to Main Street from some of our adjacent underutilized parking lots. A new electronic sign at the entry of the City Hall parking garage on Lampasas Avenue gives a real time view to visitors of how many spaces are available.

Getting our Downtown to where it is today has been a long-term undertaking. Fostering a vibrant, walkable Downtown for residents and visitors to gather has been a City Council strategic priority since 2007, and in 2010, that vision began to take shape with the approval of a Master Plan. This plan included extensive public input through surveys, interactive planning meetings and other feedback received from residents.

Just over the past decade, this planning process has resulted in Prete Main Street Plaza upgrades, Centennial Plaza, Round Rock Avenue and Mays Street streetscaping and the start of the Heritage Trail project. City buildings also received renovations, including the McConico Building, the Baca Senior and Community Center and the Intermodal Transit and Parking Facility. Private investments have brought us new eateries, offices, retail and more.

There are still many more projects in the pipeline to continue improving our Downtown district. One of our most exciting projects will be the new library at 200 East Liberty Ave., which will be approximately 66,000 square feet with an adjacent parking garage. In November 2013, a majority of voters approved bonds to build a new main library, which is set to open in 2023. With additional space and modernized features, the library will expand its core services and feature advanced technology.

We are working on even more improvements to support the future of Downtown. The Northeast Downtown Improvements Project will update segments of Lampasas, Sheppard, Liberty and Austin Avenues with new pavement, parking, sidewalks and lighting, with completion expected in early 2022. Although they are less visible, we expect to also address important infrastructure upgrades including wastewater and stormwater runoff throughout the project.

Progress is not slowing down anytime soon on Downtown, so it’s important we continue to support our local businesses while we wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. Our entire community is concerned about what the pandemic’s disruptions to business operations have meant for our local small businesses, and for the families of their employees. We are encouraging residents to step up and support our local businesses by shopping at home for the holidays, and I challenge you to find a way to support a Downtown business in the coming weeks. We have installed temporary curbside pickup signs in front of these restaurants and retail establishments so you can have your order delivered right to your car.

Christmas looks very different this year for a lot of us, but it’s important to still slow down and take stock of everything we miss in the hustle and bustle of daily life. By visiting Downtown Round Rock, you are sure to get that “right at home” feeling its known for, no matter which part of Round Rock you are from.

Round Rock resident uses Christmas decorations to help support local dog rescue

It’s been a ruff year for all of us. So, when we heard the pawsome news that a local Round Rock man was using Christmas decorations on his lawn to spread holiday cheer in our community and support a barkin’ good cause, we knew we had to help unleash the joy.

Cole Gedwillo has his home decorated with more than 100,000 sparkling lights that are programmed to a playlist of 17 different holiday-themed songs in an effort to help raise money for the local dog rescue, Helping Hands Basset Hound Rescue.

The Gedwillow Christmas Lights display is located at 3430 Sandy Koufax Lane in Round Rock’s Ryan’s Crossing neighborhood.

Go check out the twinkling display this holiday season and help make the season extra furry and bright.

Happy Howlidays, y’all!

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Gedwillo Lights (@gedwillo_lights)

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.

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

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.

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.