It’s Emergency Preparedness Month: Are you ready?

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

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

Here are a few tips to help get started:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Property tax proposal  

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

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

Still, City property taxes could be a lot higher.

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

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

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

 

Your total property tax bill 

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

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

 

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

Blog: Budget proposal targets major improvements to roadway network

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

One year at a time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other projects slated for funding in the proposed budget include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation 

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

Public Safety 

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

Recreation/Cultural amenities 

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

Downtown 

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

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

Sports tourism provides a win-win for Round Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How you can be prepared for shark- and non-shark-related emergencies

It’s Shark Week here in our great nation and now is as good a time as ever to ensure we’re prepared for possible shark- and non-shark-related doom to strike at any time. Texans are no strangers to strange weather, and while shark-depositing tornadoes are most likely not an immediate threat, plenty of other disasters could happen in our area. Here are a few ways you can protect your family: 

Sign up Mommy Shark, Daddy Shark, Grandma Shark and Grandpa Shark for official emergency alerts.  

The City uses  Warn Central Texas  through the Capital Area Council of Governments’ Regional Notification System to send regional emergency alerts. Users choose what types of alerts they want to receive and how they want to receive the alerts, such as text message, phone call and/or email. Alerts are sent based off the location that was used to register for an account. To register, visit warncentraltexas.org.  

Brush up on the non-shark-related weather events that are most likely to happen in our community, and know what to do to stay informed. 

Flash flooding — not sharknados — is the number one weather-related killer in Texas. Nationally, more than half of all flash flood fatalities nationwide involve vehicles, so if you see water over the road, you should always remember to “turn around, don’t drown.” We doubt there are sharks in those flood waters, but it’s always best to play it safe. Be sure to stay up-to-date on the latest low water crossings during flooding events by visiting atxfloods.com. 

Make a basic emergency supply kit to survive in the wild (or at least a few days of being displaced). 

You’ve seen it on the news: floods that force homeowners to escape to their roofs, wildfires that leave residents without their belongings — would you be prepared if the same happened here? Having a basic emergency supply kit ready to go at all times can be a literal lifesaver. Here are a few things you can have ready: 

  • Basic first aid kit, seven-day supply of medications
  • Extra cash in small bills
  • Spare change of clothes
  • Spare home/car key
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, tags, food, bowl)
  • Copies of personal documents in water-tight bag
  • 1 gallon of water per person, per day (3-day supply)
  • 3-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Sanitation/personal hygiene items
  • Chargers, flashlight, extra batteries  

Pay attention to the warning signs for storms, and take shelter when necessary. 

Much like the theme song of Jaws, thunder is a big indicator that something dangerous is about to take place. When thunder roars — go indoors! Seek shelter immediately in a sturdy building or, if a building is not available, a hard-topped vehicle with the windows rolled up. Lightning — and shark attacks — are often used as a metaphor for all things unlikely, but the truth is that an average 47 deaths and 500+ injuries are reported each year in the U.S. due to lightning strikes.   

Want to learn more helpful tips and information about emergency preparedness in Round Rock? Visit the Round Rock Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s website at roundrocktexas.gov/departments/fire/emergency-management 

Mayor Morgan: Dell, Round Rock mark 25 years of successful partnership

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


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

Round Rock has a long, storied history of welcoming economic development, and its most well known success story is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Leading up to the 1990s, Round Rock was in serious danger of becoming a bedroom community, which is defined as a “small community that has no major industries and that is lived in by people who go to another town or city to work.” Many people were choosing to live in Round Rock for its affordability and schools, and driving down Interstate 35 to work in Austin.

Although small town comforts tend to be associated with bedroom communities, the truth is suburbs without their own commercial development tend to fall victim to traffic, lack of amenities and higher tax rates as they continue to grow. Our city’s leaders saw the benefit of choosing another future for our community.

Following a surge in commercial and industrial activity in the mid-’90s, Round Rock’s leadership successfully recruited a little company you may have heard of from Austin in 1994. Dell Technologies’ relocation to Round Rock was the beginning of our city as we know it today, spawning homes and businesses catering to thousands of local Dell employees.​

It’s easy to see Dell’s direct economic impact in the form of jobs and contribution to our community’s financial well being after all these years. Dell is the city’s largest sales tax generator, contributing to our public safety, transportation network, parks, library and more.

As recently as 2007, sales tax collections from Dell made up 38 percent of the city’s total sales tax revenues. Just this past year, the City Council created a budgetary policy to limit Dell sales tax collections to just 20 percent of our budgeted general fund sales tax revenues, while depositing any remainder in our general self finance construction fund for one-time capital expenditures to benefit our community.

Dell has an impact far beyond Round Rock city limits. For each of the approximately 16,000 employees working for the company in Texas, another 3.5 jobs are supported across the state. The company spends $3 billion with Texas-based suppliers, supporting more than 71,500 jobs.

In addition to the direct economic benefit to Round Rock and Texas, Dell is well known for its social responsibility in the Central Texas region.

Technology programs led by Dell have helped educate approximately 2,194 underserved youth at the Boys & Girls Club of the Austin Area, and more than $13.4 million and 200,000 hours of volunteer time have been donated across the state supporting initiatives like environmental protection, youth education and disaster relief.

We have confidence to say our community has also been a good choice for Dell. The company’s headquarters-related business in Round Rock has earnings of $9.9 billion, making up 29 percent of Dell’s overall U.S. revenues.

Economic development wins are an important part of Round Rock’s success story, and we are excited to see how these projects continue to benefit our community. Our successful partnership with Dell paved the way for future agreements with Round Rock Premium Outlets, IKEA, Emerson Process Management, Bass Pro Shops, Kalahari Resorts and Conventions and more.

Twenty-five years later, Dell remains a major driver to our economy. As the company continues to make its mark on the state of Texas and beyond, Round Rock is proud to be the home of this stellar organization.

Craig Morgan was elected mayor of Round Rock in May 2017. He has served on the City Council since May 2011.

Cervantes: How do you want to be remembered?

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


What do you want to be remembered for?

I was sitting in an executive book briefing session a few weeks ago when this question was asked. I’m a believer in timing and things happening for a reason, and the timing of this question coincided with two other events.

It was around the time of our mid-year performance evaluations at the library. It also coincided with the one-year anniversary of my Uncle Marcos and our dear retired library staff member, Elaine, going home to be with our lord and savior.

I wanted to know how other people close to me would answer this question. But how would I answer?

At the beginning of the year, I asked staff to create a vision board. On the board posted in the break room were words and images representing goals that we wanted to achieve this year and for the future.

I selected the words “kindness” and “courage” — two qualities I will need on my journey to Uganda. I am excited about my upcoming adventure to restock 13 libraries around the east African country. Thousands of books and hundreds of children are waiting for me and my team from Libraries of Love.

On the vision board I also posted an image of a groundbreaking, along with the words “perseverance” and “patience.”

In August 2018, the library bond project was put on hold while the City Council decided on a new location for the library. If you haven’t heard the news, we have a new location one block north of the current library building. The project reboot will begin this summer.

The design team is taking all the work that we did last year and moving forward on the new site. This will be a great location for the residents of the city and the library will continue to be an anchor for the community in the downtown area.

More good news I am happy to share is that we have selected an artist for our mural project. Local artist Melissa Fontenette-Mitchell will soon be installing her original photography, which is being made possible through a generous donation from Dr. Paul Jones. He was one of our regular customers and will be remembered for his humility, generosity and love of art.

With everything happening personally and professionally, I want to be remembered for being a positive influence, setting a good example and not letting fear get in the way. I want to be remembered for shattering stereotypes, breaking down barriers and, most of all, lifting people up.

What do you want to be remembered for? It’s not too late to rewrite your autobiography and the library can help you get started. You can make a difference in your community by volunteering at the library or with one of the many nonprofits in Round Rock.

Need some inspiration? Check out one of the many books that have inspired me. Here are a few recommend reads:

• “Becoming a Person of Influence,” by John C. Maxwell and Jim Dornan.

• “Unexpected: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure,” by Christine Caine.

• “Circling the Sun,” by Paula McLain.

 

Round Rock hosts Texas high school baseball state championships

High school baseball teams across Texas are packing their bags and heading to Round Rock for the 2019 University Interscholastic League (UIL) Baseball State Championships!

The tournament begins Wednesday, June 5 at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond as twenty-four teams play for six state titles.

More information, including participating teams, brackets, schedules, broadcast information, and details about Round Rock’s place as the Sports Capital of Texas, can be found online: https://goroundrock.com/round-rock-texas/road-to-round-rock-2019/ 

See Round Rock from a new perspective — hop on a bike!

Remember your first bike ride? The freedom, the fresh air, the cards in the spokes going “thwak, thwak, thwak?” Maybe it’s time to consider riding your bike again.

CAPCOG‘s Air Quality Program is promoting May as Bike Month, encouraging Central Texas residents to celebrate the power of the bicycle and rediscover the many reasons to ride. Whether you bike to work or school; ride to save money or time; pump those pedals to preserve your health or the environment; or cruise to explore your community, it all adds up to cleaner air.

Hike and bike trails are one of the top services Round Rock’s residents expect our Parks and Recreation Department to provide, according to a recent survey, making trails an integral part of the City’s infrastructure. There are over 20 miles of hike and bike trails currently in Round Rock, expanding to 26 miles in the coming years with an eye toward linking trail segments together to provide more connectivity for residents.

Residents can easily learn more and discover Round Rock’s growing trail system by participating in the 2019 Round Rock Parks and Recreation Department’s Trails Challenge! This is a self-guided program to complete on your own schedule and you can start at any time. You can take part on your own, with your dog, with family, with friends and with co-workers. The challenge is designed for all ages and fitness levels. Download your 2019 Trails Challenge Scorecard, track your progress and complete the challenge to get great prizes!

If you’re the planning type, the City of Round Rock partnered with Google Maps to map its trails so that you can check out potential routes from the comfort of your screen. So what are you waiting for? Jump in the saddle and enjoy some fresh air!