5 things to know about Tuesday’s rain in Round Rock

Central Texas received an immense amount of rain on Tuesday, and forecasts predict that this is only the beginning. Here’s what you need to know:

RRFD performed swift water rescues in Kingsland on Tuesday.

1. Devastation hit close to home. Pictures of catastrophic flooding saturated social media and the news as nearby communities were hit hard by flooding along the Llano River. Round Rock Fire Department mobilized a boat crew early Tuesday that headed down to Kingsland, working side by side with Williamson County Emergency Services and Austin Fire Department to perform swift water rescues. Our thoughts continue to be with those affected by the storms.

2. More rain is expected for heavy-hit areas. “The region remains very sensitive to additional rainfall and a Flash Flood Watch will remain in effect for parts of South Central Texas through Thursday evening,” according to the National Weather Service (NWS). One reading posted by the NWS showed that Round Rock received 6.12 inches over a 48-hour period as of Tuesday morning.

3. Turn around; don’t drown. While the amount of rain wasn’t catastrophic, it definitely resulted in the closure of some low water crossings in Round Rock, and City crews had to close the Chisholm Trail crossing to clear debris this morning. Even our namesake rock was struggling to stay above water. Be sure to stay up-to-date on the latest low water crossings by visiting atxfloods.com. Round Rock Police Department also released a very timely video earlier this month about the importance of paying attention to low water crossings:

4. There are plenty of resources to make sure you’re prepared for future emergencies. With such devastating flooding happening so close to us, it makes one wonder — am I prepared for something like this? Now’s as good a time as any to brush up on the ways you can prepare for a flooding incident. A great source of information for emergency preparedness, including for floods, is available at ready.gov

Ironically, a Flash Flood Training planned for Round Rock on Wednesday evening has been postponed due to the weather — stay tuned for future updates on a new date. The training sessions focus solely on flooding issues of the region and discuss the meteorology behind the record flooding that Central Texas can receive. 

5. Well, at least the rain’s been good for one thing. After a lengthy summer of dry conditions, our primary source of drinking water, Lake Georgetown, received some much needed help from Tuesday’s downpour.

Mayor Morgan: Diversified funding sources key to transportation success

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


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

There’s an old saying among municipal planners that the best time to build a road is 10 years before a study says you need it.

Transportation and traffic are big issues in Round Rock, and the solutions are never cheap and never seem to come fast enough. Our 2017 Transportation Master Plan determined we need $1.2 billion in new roadway capacity to accommodate growth over the next 20 years in the City of Round Rock.

The good news? We’ve been able to employ a variety of funding sources to make a real difference over the past several years and are looking at ways we can speed up our efforts to tackle this mammoth of a challenge.

In 1997, residents voted to assign a half-cent of our sales tax revenues, meaning 50 cents per $100 spent at City of Round Rock retailers, toward transportation. To date, that small portion of money spent by visitors and residents alike within our city has raised $293 million. That number wouldn’t be near as high without economic development efforts to bring businesses like Dell, Round Rock Premium Outlets, Emerson and IKEA – which bring huge sales activity to our community. By combining that $293 million with county, state and federal funds, we have completed $533 million worth of road projects.

This year, the City was able to secure $27.6 million in federal funding through our partnership with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) for three significant road projects: Kenny Fort Boulevard from Forest Creek to SH 45; University Boulevard from A.W. Grimes Boulevard to County Road 110; and Gattis School Road from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane. These projects are estimated to cost $61.5 million altogether, meaning these dollars will help cover a third of the cost of these roads.

We enjoy a great working relationship with our state partners at TxDOT, which is critical considering an interstate runs right through our community. TxDOT has recently completed or is still constructing a total of five projects on I-35 in Round Rock that have a total cost of $73.5 million. The braided ramps south of U.S 79 and associated improvements alone are valued at $28.1 million. Now that’s some serious investment in our community!

We’ve certainly chipped in our share of City funding to tackle road concerns, and one of our biggest concerns is maintaining the roadway network we already have in place. We’ve invested roughly $25 million in neighborhood street maintenance over the past five years. For the new fiscal year, 71 percent of our 1.4 cent increase over the effective tax rate this year will go toward maintaining our residential roads.

As we look toward the future, we are investigating two additional sources of funding for road projects: traffic impact fees and certificates of obligation.

State law allows cities to issue either general obligation bonds, or certificates of obligation, to finance long-term public works projects. Certificates of obligation (COs) allow us to take advantage of favorable interest rates and get projects started on a shorter timeline than general obligation bonds, which could help us gain some ground on our transportation needs. 

The Council approved $28 million in COs in 2014 to help fund multiple projects that have since come to fruition: the Creek Bend Boulevard extension, improvements Downtown to Mays and Main streets, Phase 2 of Seton Parkway and Phase 2 of La Frontera street maintenance work.

The City is also currently evaluating Roadway Impact Fees, which are one-time costs assessed to new developments. This type of funding could be used to help accommodate growth across our entire transportation system in accordance with state law. Roadway Impact Fees are used by many cities across the state as a way to have new growth contribute to needed transportation system expansion.

The truth is there is no simple answer to our traffic problems. Addressing it takes a  combination of approaches and is something we will continue to seek creative solutions for moving forward. But one thing we have learned is that taking advantage of Round Rock’s unique, growing economy and maintaining regional partnerships will continue to be keys to our future success.

There are many paths to funding transportation needs

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of posts on the fiscal 2019 budget and tax rate.


We direct significant resources at our transportation problems in Round Rock. From lots of sources — not just local taxpayers. There are many paths to paying for what’s needed to address the City’s No. 1 problem — traffic congestion.

The fiscal 2019 budget includes a little over $41 million for transportation. That covers everything from the crews needed to fill cracks in pavement to widening University Boulevard.

The transportation funding bucket includes some property tax revenue, certainly, but nearly half comes from the half-cent sales tax voters approved in 1997. Add in funding from state and federal sources, as well as the private sector, and you’ve got a potent mix of revenues to deal with the City’s most pressing problem. And we’re looking at a couple of new funding sources to add to the mix — more on that in a minute.

That half-cent sales tax goes a long, long way

Since Round Rock’s half-cent sales tax for transportation and economic development went into effect, we’ve collected $293 million. Those dollars have been leveraged into more than $533 million worth of projects as we’ve tapped county, state and federal funds, as well as private developers, to maximize the impact of this key funding source.

That half-cent is one reason the presence of Dell is so important to Round Rock, along with destination retailers like IKEA, Premium Outlets and Bass Pro Shops. Anytime Dell sells a good or service to a Texas-based customer, it generates local sales tax revenue to the City. And those hundreds of thousands of visitors from out of town who shop here are helping pay for transportation improvements here. Those are dollars we don’t collect from local taxpayers.

Collecting visitor sales tax revenue is also a driver behind our Sports Capital of Texas tourism program. We fund our operations at the Round Rock Sports Center, Round Rock Multipurpose Complex and City costs at the Dell Diamond with Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue. That’s the tax paid by folks staying in our hotels. When you see some of your favorite restaurants around town full of kids wearing the same jersey, you can smile knowing they’re contributing to the funding of City services, including major road projects in Round Rock.

Sales tax aside, the City has also been successful in securing $27.6 million in federal funds via CAMPO for three significant road projects: Kenny Fort Boulevard from Forest Creek to SH 45; University Boulevard from A.W. Grimes Boulevard to County Road 110; and Gattis School Road from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane. That’s nearly a third of the $61.5 million total estimated cost.

TxDOT delivering $73 million worth of relief

Of course, the 600-pound gorilla in the room when talking Round Rock traffic is I-35. Our friends at the Texas Department of Transportation have multiple projects under way to tame that beast. There are five projects either under construction or completed in recent years, valued at a whopping $73.5 million.

  1. Ramp reversals between U.S. 79 and FM 3406 — Completed in December 2015, this $6.7 million project helped alleviate a bottleneck on the northbound mainlanes of the interstate.
  2. The Diverging Diamond intersection at RM 1431 — Completed in May 2016, this $6.7 million project moves significantly more cars through an increasingly busy intersection.
  3. Widening the FM 3406 bridge — Scheduled for completion this fall, the $12.4 million project will add two U-turn lanes and increase capacity.
  4. Braided ramps, U.S. 79 intersection — This $28.1 million project includes constructing braided ramps to remove merging conflicts on the I-35 northbound mainlanes between Hesters Crossing and RM 620. The northbound extended entrance/exit lane will allow drivers to match travel speeds prior to merging. The improvements to the northbound and southbound frontage road intersections at I-35 and U.S. 79 and a third left-turn lane for westbound U.S. 79 were components of this project. Final completion is anticipated in early 2019 — but the ramps are now open!
  5. Frontage roads between FM 3406, RM 1431 — TxDOT considers this two projects, one southbound and one northbound. The $9.2 million southbound project reverses two ramps on southbound I-35 and improves the southbound frontage road. The $10.4 million northbound project will reconstruct/widen the I-35 northbound frontage road from two to three lanes between RM 1431 and FM 3406, and relocate the exit ramp to RM 1431 and extend the existing auxiliary lane, or extended entrance/exit lane.

New funding sources being considered

The City is in the formal process of evaluating Roadway Impact Fees, which are one-time costs assessed to new developments in order to improve roadway capacity. The funds can be used to help accommodate growth and serve the overall transportation system as allowed by state law. According to the City’s 2017 Transportation Master Plan, more than $1.2 billion in new roadway capacity is needed to accommodate future growth in the City of Round Rock.

The City Council will hold a second public hearing on the fees at its Thursday, Sept. 13, meeting. A decision on whether to implement the fee is expected to occur in November.

That decision will influence how much the City Council will consider issuing in Certificates of Obligation (COs) later this year or early next year to fund planned road projects. The Council approved $28 million in COs in 2014 to help fund multiple projects: the Creek Bend Boulevard extension (completed in January 2017) as well as improvements Downtown to Mays and Main streets (completed in spring 2018), Phase 2 of Seton Parkway (completed in March 2016) and Phase 2 of La Frontera street maintenance work (completed in November 2015). 

As emphasized in our first Fiscal 2019 budget blog post, a key element of Round Rock’s “Blueprint for Success” is to diversify how we fund local government. We’re always looking for ways to fund needed projects without putting it all on the tab of single family homeowners. That may be most evident when it comes to transportation funding.

Before asking you to pay more, we make sure we’re using existing resources efficiently

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of posts on the fiscal 2019 budget and tax rate.


No one likes paying more in property taxes. That’s a given. But sometimes it’s necessary to keep a first-class city running the way it needs to.

In our first blog post on the proposed fiscal 2019 budget and tax rate, we took a deep dive into the incredible value that Round Rock homeowners get for their property tax dollars. To keep Round Rock growing successfully, the City Council is considering a modest tax increase for the median value home – $2.94 per month, to be exact – to pay for increased street maintenance and bond projects approved by voters.

Still, folks aren’t happy to hear the budget proposal includes a tax increase. We get it. But it’s worth mentioning all of the ways that we maximize the use of existing resources before we ask taxpayers to provide more revenue for City operations.

Here are just a few of the ways we’ve saved costs, found new funding sources and increased efficiencies over the past 18 months, and in the proposed budget:

  • We repurposed a single-family home to use as Fire Station No. 9, saving the cost of demolishing the structure and building a new station. The initial project cost around $250,000, compared to the $2.6 million we spent for Station No. 8
  • Of the $104 million spent on City transportation projects over the past five years, $11 million came through our partnerships with other agencies. That doesn’t include major projects in Round Rock where the Texas Department of Transportation has been the lead agency, like the $12.4 million new FM 3406 bridge at I-35; the $19.4 million for frontage road improvements both northbound and southbound between RM 1431 and FM 3406; and the soon to open $28.1 million I-35 braided ramps from SH 45 to U.S. 79
  • We selected a new model of Police vehicle that meets our needs at a lower price – a move that saves $5,600 per vehicle and has resulted in $500,000 saved to date
  • Our consistent search for bond refunding opportunities during favorable market conditions over the past three years has resulted in annual savings of $1.4 million
  • Both the Library and Parks and Recreation use volunteers extensively, offsetting staffing costs by a combined $295,000 per year

For a complete list of cost savings and efficiencies, check out pages 19-20 of the proposed budget.

Other endeavors that have added tremendous value for residents at a reasonable cost include:

  • What our Transportation staff calls Bottleneck Projects. We’ve provided significant traffic congestion relief by adding a turn lane at intersections like Gattis School Road and Mays Street (westbound and northbound) Gattis School Road and Red Bud Lane (northbound and soundbound), Forest Creek Drive and Red Bud Lane (northbound and southbound), Gattis School Road and Rusk Lane (eastbound left turn lane) and University Boulevard and Sunrise Road (eastbound). Total price tags for those projects: $4.5 million, of which $2.5 million was for the big Gattis School Road-Mays Street project. By comparison, the extension of McNeil Avenue will cost $4.25 million.
  • Transitioning to cloud-based services and improving internal processes means we haven’t had to add any Information Technology staff over the past five years, despite growing demand for improved tech support and services.
  • The Texas State Library conducted a study that shows a return of $4.64 in benefits for each dollar spent by public libraries.

But the most effective government service in the world may be delivered by the Fire Department. To wit:

  1. You call us and we ask 2 questions: Where are you? What’s wrong?
  2. We show up and fix what’s wrong (without paperwork or applications)
  3. When we’re done fixing, we clean up and go home
  4. We’re the easiest to get hold of and we don’t stay longer than we need to

Of course, there’s an amazing amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to make that happen.  Rest assured the City is working diligently to ensure we’re not spending more dollars than needed to deliver quality emergency responses – as well as all the other services we provide. Providing exceptional value is an essential component of Round Rock’s Blueprint for Success.

Homeowner property taxes don’t pay for it all in Round Rock, by design

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts on the fiscal 2019 budget and tax rate 


Round Rock’s success is by design. We develop long-term plans for major infrastructure like roads and water, as well as quality of life amenities like parks and recreation and library services. We’re able to implement those plans because we’ve got the long-term fiscal planning in place to fund them. 

Our Strategic Plan ties it all together to provide a blueprint for sustainable growth. The annual budget ensures funding for what needs to get done over the next 12 months – from police staffing to street maintenance – to keep Round Rock an amazingly livable city. 

And the property taxes paid by you and other homeowners funds the whole shebang, right? 

Not even close. 

Property taxes cover only 33 percent of our General Fund, which includes core services like Police, Fire, Library, Transportation and Parks. And almost half of that 33 percent is paid by commercial and multifamily properties, with the remainder funded by single family property owners.  

Put another way, for the $114 million in General Fund revenues forecast for fiscal 2019, single-family homes will contribute $20.1 million, or less than 18 percent. 

So, other than property taxes, where does the rest of the money for our General Fund come from? Sales taxes make up the majority of revenues at 44 percent, with other fees and service charges covering the remaining 23 percent.  

When you look at those percentages, it’s easy to see just how much economic development and attracting destination retailers like Premium Outlets and Bass Pro Shops helps us reduce the burden on homeowners to pay for basic City services. 

Think about this this way: If all the City had was property tax revenue to fund general government, we could afford Police and the Library, with a couple 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 $22.4 million Fire Department budget. 

Property tax proposal 

Let’s look at the proposed property tax rate. The City Council is considering a property tax rate of 42 cents per $100 of valuation, which is a penny lower than last year’s tax rate. The proposed rate is an increase of 3.4 percent above the effective tax rate of 40.6 cents, which takes into account the 6 percent growth in existing property values from last year.  

At the proposed rate, the owner of a median value home worth $241,538 will pay $85 per month in City property taxes next year. That’s an additional $2.94 per month compared to this year.  

No one likes paying more in taxes, certainly, but it might help if you know what that proposed tax increase is paying for: 71 percent is going toward additional street maintenance in our neighborhoods; 21 percent for the 2013 voter-approved bond program; and 8 percent for increased services related to population growth and rising costs. 

All told, that median value homeowner will pay $1,014 for City services in 2019.  

But wait, you say. My tax bill is more than 5 times that.   

Indeed. 

The City of Round Rock is only 18 percent of your total property tax bill. Round Rock ISD is 56 percent, Williamson County is 20 percent, and Austin Community College and the Upper Brushy Creek Water Control and Improvement District make up the remaining 6 percent.

Still, City property taxes could be a lot higher. Seriously. 

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 14 cents on the property tax rate. That saves the median value homeowner $28 a month on their City tax bill. That’s a really great reason to Shop the Rock 

Bringing in more sales tax revenue is a goal of our Sports Capital of Texas tourism program. Those visitors who come to play here also shop and dine here, and thus help pay for basic City services and take upward pressure off the property tax rate. 

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 at a great value. Providing remarkable value to our property taxpayers has been a foundational element in Round Rock’s Blueprint for Success for many years, and this year’s budget and tax rate are no exception.

Mayor Morgan: City provides wide range of services with tax rate less than monthly cable bill

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


Budget season is upon us in Round Rock.

Although city staff have been working for months to put together a proposed budget, we have just recently started to hold public hearings and take necessary votes to inform the public and ultimately pass a budget that will set our course for the next fiscal year. Other taxing entities, such as Williamson County and the Round Rock school district, go through the same process every year for their own budgets.

The city’s budget includes a lot of services that citizens use every single day, including police and fire protection, roads, parks, the library and much more. The general fund is the primary fund for these core government services, and is funded by traditional tax sources, such as property taxes.

After we set our budget for the upcoming year, we have to decide on a property tax rate that combines with other sources of funding, such as sales tax, to cover the expenses of providing these services. At our most recent City Council meeting, we voted to set the maximum tax rate for our upcoming budget at 42 cents per $100 valuation – lower than the current rate.

That tax rate means if your home is valued at $241,538 — the median value in Round Rock — the city portion of your property tax would be less than $85 per month.

It’s pretty impressive when you consider the services you get for less than the average cable bill: outstanding public safety, plentiful parks and trails, transportation projects and maintenance, library services, community events, planning services and everything else that makes our community a place people are proud to call home.

The city leverages other revenues such as hotel occupancy taxes to fund our tourism program and utility rates to fund our water, wastewater and drainage systems.

We are able to provide property tax relief through a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in the ’80s. Did you know that without our sales tax, our property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year would need to be 56 cents to raise the revenue for our services? That would be an increase of $28.17 per month for the median value home — or a 33 percent increase.

Thanks to all of these funding sources, the city’s property tax rate is among the lowest in the state. Is that something to hang our hats on? Sure, but property taxes shouldn’t be a race to the bottom.

Being affordable must be balanced with providing great value. Go too cheap and you risk falling behind on street maintenance, crime, recreation and a whole host of other issues that can creep up on a growing city like ours.

Of course we are not the only taxing entity on your property tax bill. Without a doubt, the government agency that receives the bulk of Round Rock residents’ property tax bill every year is the school district. Unfortunately, though, a sizable portion of your property tax to the school district does not actually stay with your local school district.

On average, $277 of residents’ annual tax payment to the Round Rock school district is actually sent to the state under the infamous “Robin Hood” system.

The school district will raise a total of $27.8 million in additional tax collections in the upcoming year. However, $32.3 million will be passed on to the state.

Under the state’s current recapture or “Robin Hood” system, “property wealthy” districts must send their funding to the state to be given to districts deemed “property poor.” But the reality is, as property values have gone up across Texas, state funding for schools has gone down.

Unlike the school district, the city generally does not provide money to the state or receive any money for our operations other than small grants. However, we expect during the upcoming legislative session to see a handful of elected officials on the state level call for a property tax revenue cap on city governments.

Property tax revenue caps are popular politically, but remember: cities receive just 16 percent of property taxes levied in the state, while the school district makes up more than half of your property tax bill.

At the same time, school property taxes have been rising at double the rate of cities’ statewide because the Legislature continues to reduce the state’s share of school funding. That means school districts end up raising property taxes even more to raise the necessary revenue for their operations.

During the upcoming legislative session, you can expect to see city officials from across the state implore state officials to fix the actual problem behind rising property taxes, instead of playing Robin Hood and pointing a finger at entities that have much less effect on your property tax bill.

Over the years, our city has worked hard to be a good steward of taxpayer money, leveraging alternate funding sources to keep property taxes low.

Did you know the Round Rock Sports Center and Dell Diamond — two of our community’s most visited amenities — operate with zero property tax support? And that even though single-family residences make up 93 percent of our city’s parcels of land, it’s actually the 7 percent of non-residential development that pays almost half of our total property tax revenues?

Round Rock is a unique city that has been able to leverage our diverse and growing economy, but our economy is never guaranteed to stay stable. Having the ability to set a property tax rate that fits our needs is important to provide essential services at the level our residents expect, and that will become much more difficult if the state chooses to tie our hands this legislative session. This is our home, and budget decisions should be made here.

Want to know more about the city’s proposed budget? Visit roundrocktexas.gov/budget.

Mayor Craig Morgan: Survey results provide valuable feedback

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


Feedback is an essential tool we use to improve ourselves. Whether it’s through a supervisor at the office, a coach on a sports team or customers of a business, we can grow in all walks of life by receiving evaluations of our work and taking appropriate action.

The same can be said for myself as mayor and my fellow Round Rock City Council members. We receive feedback through many channels — at public hearings, social media and even at the grocery store or church. These comments help us implement ideas that help us tailor city ordinances as well as the budget that we pass each year.

While it’s great to hear individual feedback, the council is charged with representing all 100,000-plus residents across our city and making the best decisions for our entire community as a whole. That’s why our biennial community survey is an essential tool for us to gauge the overall sentiment of Round Rock residents.

Since 1998, the city has conducted a survey of its citizens every other year to see how well we are meeting their needs and to help set priorities for the community. ETC Institute conducts the survey in the spring to a random sample of 400-plus households across the entire city. Having this statistically valid, big picture view of public perception helps round out the individual feedback that we receive on a day-to-day basis.

So how did we fare? ETC’s major findings showed 84 percent of all residents surveyed are satisfied with the overall quality of life in Round Rock, and 82 percent are satisfied with city services. This is outstanding when compared to our peers — an average of 66 percent of Texans statewide reported being satisfied with overall quality of life in their cities and less than half of Texans reported being satisfied with the overall quality of services provided by their municipal government.

I commend our employees’ efforts to maintain and improve our city, and their constant focus on customer service. For most, Round Rock is their home, too, and they have a vested interest in keeping it a great place to live.

Round Rock residents reported being most pleased with our public safety services, including fire and police, as well as parks and recreation. Approximately 90 percent of survey respondents said they had an overall feeling of being “safe” or “very safe” in Round Rock.

We had a feeling we would see negative feedback in one category, and you can probably guess what it was: traffic.

Approximately 76 percent of residents said they feel traffic is getting worse, compared to 56 percent of respondents in 2010. Residents were also asked to rate the traffic flow in different areas of the city. Forty-five percent of respondents rated traffic flow in and around neighborhoods as “excellent” or “good,” and only 14 percent of respondents rated traffic flow on state roads and highways as “excellent” or “good.”

However, the cleanliness and maintenance of both major city and neighborhood streets received a majority of positive responses in the survey, thanks to the hard work of our transportation department and increased funding to our budget in this area.

With multiple Texas Department of Transportation projects underway on Interstate 35, Round Rock has an intimate understanding that traffic oftentimes has to get worse before it gets better. We celebrated the early opening of the FM 3406 bridge over Interstate 35 in June and look forward to more milestones as these projects are completed.

More good news: We have already put a plan in motion to prepare for the future as we are taking care of the present. In order to meet our current and future transportation demands, city staff unveiled an updated transportation master plan in October. We know what needs to be done long-term to be able to one day serve the total buildout of our city at a population of 250,000. But it comes with a hefty price tag: $1.2 billion.

Capital road improvements are also a slow process at best. New roads, drainage and pedestrian facilities must be carefully designed to serve current and future needs. Land must be acquired to construct these improvements.

Contractors must be carefully selected based on the value to the taxpayer. Stakeholders are consulted when a potential conflict arises. All of this must be done while more than 100 new residents are moving to the Round Rock-Austin area on a daily basis.

The survey also showed that climbing property taxes continue to be a concern for our residents due to rising valuations and the ongoing battle regarding state and local funding of schools — a topic you can expect to hear more about in the coming months.

As one portion of your overall property tax bill, we work to keep the city’s property tax rate among the lowest in our area while also providing the services at the level our residents expect. We have additional resources in Round Rock to accomplish road projects thanks to the voter-approved dedication of a half-cent of our sales tax, and we work closely with our regional partners to secure outside funding to supplement our road projects.

We used the survey to begin gauging general public opinion on potentially using a bond election as an additional tool to get started on even more road projects in our community — a topic we considered at our council retreat in February. More than half of survey respondents who had an opinion on the topic said they would support a bond package to fund road projects.

The conversation doesn’t stop here. I encourage you to continue engaging with the city through public meetings, community events and on social media. We recently held our first Coffee with the Mayor, which was modeled after Round Rock Police Department’s popular Coffee with the Cop program, and are currently planning another one.

I invite you to join us to share your concerns and ideas with myself and other council members to help us keep our city a place you are proud to call home.

To see the full community survey results and analysis, visit roundrocktexas.gov.

Top 10 (plus three) things to do this summer in Round Rock

Special thanks to Round Rock ISD extern Caitlin Osborne for contributing this blog post!

Whether the forecast calls for high temps or rainy days, we have you covered with the top ten (plus three!) things to do this summer in Round Rock.

  1. Walk along Brushy Creek’s shaded path in Memorial Park and follow the trail to view our famous rock.
  2. Join in on free, fun activities and reading challenges for all ages with Round Rock Public Library’s Summer Reading Program, or learn a new skill by attending a class or workshop.
  3. Listen to live music on Round Rock’s first downtown rooftop lounge at Urban.
  4. Watch nearly a half-million Mexican free-tailed bats take flight at dusk from the McNeil bridge along I-35. Free parking in the NAPA Auto Parts parking lot, 601 S. I-35.
  5. Bring the kids to the Play for All Park to experience the newest features, including all-new playground equipment, a zip line and a “speedway” for bikes and scooters.
  6. Encounter Shakespeare under the stars during the final week of Summer Theater in the Park.
  7. Splash around in one of Rock’N River Water Park’s newest attractions. Twilight admission is half off from 5 to 7 p.m.
  8. Take yourself out to the ballgame and watch Round Rock’s favorite home team, the Express. Don’t miss upcoming promotions such as Stranger Things Night, Friday Fireworks and Superhero Night.
  9. Experience Latin vibes with free salsa classes at Rockey’s Piano Bar, every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. through July 30.
  10. Adults age 50 and over can explore various locations within a three-hour radius by taking a day trip with the Allen R. Baca Center.
  11. Get your om on in Downtown Round Rock with a free, beginner-friendly yoga class presented by The Yoga Room. Dates are Aug. 11 and Sept. 8.
  12. While you’re on Main Street, cool off and splash around in the Prete Plaza Fountain.
  13. Compete in a co-ed kickball league. Learn more about leagues for all ages at roundrockrecreation.com.

Mayor: City’s history of economic development success continues with Kalahari 

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


What does the word “growth” bring to mind for you? If comments on the City of Round Rock’s social media pages and citizen surveys are any indication, your answer is probably traffic. 

You would be hard-pressed to find a city in our area that is not experiencing some level of growth. From July 2016 to July 2017, Austin-Round Rock was the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the state, adding 55,269 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  

If we choose to sit back and hope that inevitable expansion will not occur, we risk making the exact things we fear about growth a reality. Through wise planning, we can ensure our growth serves the public by improving quality of life, creating new jobs and maintaining our City’s financial health so we can afford to carry out our strategic plans. We also look for ways to mitigate the potential negative impacts, such as traffic, that new development can create. 

The question we find ourselves asking is this: How can we make growth less burdensome on residents? How do we ensure that development has the least amount of impact possible on our daily commutes and creates a true economic benefit to our residents? 

These questions came to mind as we considered the future of a 351-acre tract of land along U.S. 79 across from the Dell Diamond and Old Settlers Park – the future site of Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center, which breaks ground May 15. The developers plan to employ a minimum of 700 people and invest $550 million in the project, which includes a 975-room resort, 200,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor water park and a more than 150,000-square-foot convention center.

There were two possible development scenarios for this piece of land, with the first being single-family residential. If that entire tract of land was developed as housing, it could have resulted in the construction of up to 1,404 homes. That means 1,404 families with commutes between home and work in the morning and evening, adding to congestion on U.S. 79. 

Another option was to follow the pre-existing zoning of the land. This would allow for a 15-story hotel, 50,000 square feet of retail, 350,000 square feet of offices, a 47-acre business park development, 400 townhome units, 8 acres of retail development, in addition to light industrial development with buildings up to five stories tall. Although this was the better of the two scenarios, it still created additional traffic concerns around the 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. rush hours along U.S. 79. 

With these two options on the table, Kalahari’s interest in the land was a game changer. The traffic to this resort destination will not peak at a particular time of day, unlike mixed-use developments and residential neighborhoods that draw residents and employees to and from during rush hour. 

Additionally, we knew the project would bring significant convention and hotel space to our community and help diversify our economy, not to mention the potential of creating a new revenue stream to provide essential City services while demanding fewer of those services. 

In the first 10 years, the development is expected to bring a net revenue of $4.7 million to the City’s budget per year. To put into perspective just how meaningful that is, consider this: to raise $5 million in property taxes from residents would require a 10 percent increase in the tax rate, meaning we are essentially able to maintain and improve our services at a discount to homeowners. Kalahari’s $350 million investment in the project will create significant property tax revenue to the City, Williamson County and Round Rock ISD. This is the largest impact a single project has ever had on the City’s property tax base. Thanks to the efforts of State Rep. Larry Gonzales, we are able to utilize a state law to keep State tax revenues, including the hotel occupancy tax, sales tax and mixed beverage tax revenues, generated by the resort in the community to help pay for the project’s public debt and revenue sharing. 

The great part about these agreements is that all incentive payments are being funded by the revenue brought in by the development. 

By planning ahead, the City Council is following in the steps of our predecessors who worked to make Round Rock as successful as it is today. The City has used incentives in the past to attract other highly desirable companies to Round Rock and has a proven track record of providing performance-based incentives to businesses that expand employment opportunities and the tax base. After seeing a surge in commercial and industrial activity in the 80s and early-90s, our City’s forefathers successfully recruited the headquarters of a little company you may have heard of – Dell – from Austin to Round Rock in 1994. That increase in the City’s tax base resulted in a series of public works projects and additional public amenities. 

In 2006, City Council saw the need to diversify our sales tax base and made an economic development agreement with Round Rock Premium Outlets. IKEA opened in 2007, becoming the largest single retail store in Central Texas. Emerson Process Management relocated its international headquarters and technology center to Round Rock in 2012 and Bass Pro Shops opened a 104,0000-square-foot store just north of the Outlets. The Round Rock Chamber is instrumental in retaining and recruiting several other businesses that are helping our community thrive. 

It’s easy to see Dell’s direct economic impact in the form of jobs and contribution to the City’s financial well-being after all these years – it’s why we enjoy one of the lowest property tax rates in the state of Texas. It’s also easy to become overly dependent on its success, which is why we continue to look for new opportunities to grow our economy along with the inevitable population growth. 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. 

Mayor: Program marks 5 years of empowering neighborhoods

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


For a generation that has the entire world at our fingertips, we don’t always do a great job of connecting with those around us. Many of us can remember a time when our neighborhoods defined who we were — our friends, the schools we attended and our overall sense of safety and stability.

More recently, you’d be hard-pressed to find communities across the United States where residents even know their neighbors’ names.

At our 2012 City Council retreat, we found ourselves talking about some of the usual topics: water, transportation and economic development. But we constantly returned to the subject of our neighborhoods. As we continued to grow at an exponential rate, how could we ensure that we were not only maintaining — but also improving — Round Rock neighborhoods?

We committed to making neighborhood revitalization and protection a top priority in 2013 by hiring Community Development Administrator Joe Brehm. Known by many in our community as “the Neighborhood Guy,” Joe has implemented innovative ways to connect with neighborhood association leaders, church leaders and volunteer groups to help maintain property value, enhance curb appeal and maintain a sense of community in our neighborhoods.

Joe’s office, which also includes our Neighborhood Services Coordinator Katy Price, provides a one-stop shop for all residents to inquire about quality-of-life issues in their neighborhood while maintaining a 24-hour response rate to residents’ emails and calls. These two work daily to explain the “why” and “how” behind our decisions and work together to affect positive results for the community.

This simple mindset has established a foundation of reciprocity and openness with our residents in a time when government distrust is high. One neighborhood leader came to our most recent City Council meeting to thank our staff simply for being responsive and available to our residents, saying that “the ability to answer emails and phone calls has been lost in today’s society.”

Joe and Katy also coordinate essential program services like the neighborhood cleanup program, the Tool Lending Center, our curb painting kit, and, most recently, UniverCity — our citizen education and leadership program.

The Tool Lending Center is deployed to organized projects such as neighborhood cleanups, and was the first of its kind in Texas. Housed in a 22-foot by 8-foot trailer, the center includes shovels, wheelbarrows and minor home repair tools that residents can borrow at no cost. Home Depot donated $6,250 worth of tools toward the project.

Eight other cities — including four outside of Texas — have already reached out to us with interest to replicate the program. We are currently looking into ways that residents can check out the equipment outside of organized clean-ups in the future.

In April 2014, the Tool Lending Center made its first deployment at a downtown Round Rock neighborhood clean-up. Since then, the trailer and neighborhood clean-up program have become an integral part of city services by providing an additional means to help residents outside of weekly trash pick-up and routine home maintenance. The program has checked out 3,067 tools and engaged volunteers in our community 4,135 times since its inception.

Over time, we have found that some of our city population most in need did not have the means or the tools to upkeep their properties. Due to age, recent illness or surgery, some don’t have the resources that would empower them to take an active role in our community. This is where our local volunteers come into play.

The city combined forces with the Austin Bridge Builders Alliance to create Love the Rock in 2014. This fantastic nonprofit helped us coordinate a single day of service in Round Rock with 40 churches and 1,200 volunteers, 300 of whom focused solely on neighborhood cleanups. The program was a hit, and the 300 who participated with the cleanup reported the highest level of satisfaction in the work they performed in our community.

In 2016, all 1,200 volunteers participated in a neighborhood cleanup in 20 different neighborhoods. Together, they touched and improved more than 200 homes — many of which had active code enforcement tickets open at the time of the event. These amazing volunteers removed 555 tons of bulk trash and 98 tons of brush in just one day.

This program is doing more than just enhancing curb appeal and creating compliance with codes — it is strengthening the fabric of our neighborhoods. Since the creation of our Neighborhood Services program, six neighborhoods have voted to form their own associations.

This program does not include handouts from the city. Rather, it empowers residents and volunteers to connect and take active leadership in building up their own neighborhoods.

To our volunteers from the many churches and organizations across our area, I want to thank you for lifting us up and helping us to take direct action in addressing the concerns of our city. Your efforts truly make our community a more united and better place to live.

You would be hard-pressed to find another program that has such a huge return on the funding it receives. Some of the returns can be measured in tons or volunteer hours — others are in the smiles or the tears of those who regain their dignity and are empowered by this program.

We are building communities here in Round Rock, and I can’t wait to see how this program continues to grow and transform our city.

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