If today’s students are tomorrow’s future, things are looking bright in Round Rock.
Cedar Ridge High School freshman Cooper Douglas, 14, embodied the Round Rock spirit of taking care of others with his recent Eagle Scout project. A member of Boy Scouts Troop 157, Douglas made 150 dog beds for the Williamson County Animal Shelter.
Douglas had previously earned service hours by reading to dogs at the animal shelter, and decided to use his passion for animals to take his volunteering to the next level. For his Eagle Scout project, he put together a budget proposal and presented it at a troop board meeting. He mobilized volunteers, distributed materials and oversaw the creation of the beds.
“To be a good leader, you have to step outside your comfort zone into others,” he said. “A leader needs to be someone who shows an example.”
Douglas was promoted to Eagle Scout in July 2019, and the dog beds remain in use at the shelter today.
“It’s probably one of the happiest times of my life, just seeing everything come together and seeing happy animals,” he said. “Who doesn’t like a happy dog?”
In 2019, the City of Round Rock put in place funding strategies to accelerate transportation improvements over the next five years – and beyond. The intent is to step up the pace of implementation of the $1.2 billion Transportation Master Plan approved in October 2017.
The City Council approved Roadway Impact Fees in March 2019, which will be paid by developers to cover some of the costs of expanding our transportation network necessitated by their projects. In April 2019, the City issued $30 million in certificates of obligation to begin work sooner rather than later on major roadway improvements such as widening Gattis School Road and University Boulevard.
The City has a target of investing a minimum of $240 million over the next five years to improve roadway capacity and connectivity in a program we’re calling Driving Progress. To reach that total, the City plans to issue additional COs over the next four years.
It’s time to “Bark in the Mew Year” with free pet adoptions at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter!
The event, made possible thanks to a donation from the Petco Foundation, will take place through Saturday, Jan. 4.
All adult dogs over 20 pounds and all adult cats will be free to adopt as part of the promotional event and will be spayed/neutered, have age appropriate vaccinations and a registered microchip. Adopters will also receive a certificate for a free veterinary wellness exam as part of the adoption process.
The shelter is open Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.
For more information about the animal shelter, and to view a listing of adoptable animals, visit pets.wilco.org.
Mayor Craig Morgan pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of his most recent feature.
Mayor Craig Morgan
At the city of Round Rock, we often focus on long-range planning, looking five to 10 years down the road as we consider policy decisions. But at the end of each year, it’s nice to take a step back and review all that we have been able to accomplish in just 12 months.
In 2019, we were named one of the Coolest Suburbs in America by Apartment Therapy and ranked No. 2 on Money’s list of Best Places to Live. Even with an increasing number of residents moving here to enjoy our beautiful parks, recreational activities, economic opportunities and safe neighborhoods, we’ve been able to maintain a family-friendly community that is distinctive by design.
The secret sauce to our success? It’s all found in our annual strategic planning process to establish a clear vision for the year ahead. Our strategic goals this year focused on providing high value services, ensuring we have necessary infrastructure in place, maintaining a great community environment for our residents, promoting tourism, providing an exciting community destination in downtown and sustaining our neighborhoods.
Transportation is the most visible piece of our infrastructure, and this year we made huge strides toward reaching our goal of ensuring an adequate transportation system for our residents. Our most recent Transportation Master Plan forecasts a need for $1.2 billion in projects to set our road network up for success by 2040.
That number is no doubt intimidating, but this year, the City Council committed to invest $240 million in funding for road projects over the next five years to improve capacity and connectivity. This is not including state-funded projects already in the works for RM 620 and Interstate 35 in Round Rock.
Part of the funding for our five-year plan will come from roadway impact fees that the Council enacted earlier this year, providing a dependable funding source from private development to meet increasing traffic demands as our community grows.
We expect our faucets and toilets to work when we use them, but it takes deliberate planning to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure in place to provide these essential services to our growing community.
This year, we entered the final design phase of a deep water intake project with our regional partners that will give us improved reliability in times of severe drought, and we invested $12.3 million from our utilities fund in water and wastewater capital improvements to maintain and expand our system. We made improvements to the Brushy Creek regional wastewater system to allow for greater pumping capacity, more efficient power usage and reduced chance for spills at the plant.
It’s easy to appreciate the value that downtown provides for our community at this time of year, when the evenings are filled with the laughter of families and youth taking pictures among glowing holiday lights.
Since adopting our Downtown Master Plan in 2010, we’ve invested $116.9 million in making Downtown an exciting destination that helps residents feel at home in the heart of their community. We paved the way for a new and improved Library this year by purchasing property for its new location, which is located directly behind the current library’s site. The new building, which was approved by voters in our 2013 bond election, is expected to be approximately 60,000 square feet and three stories, with an adjacent 300-stall parking garage.
This year also saw the completion of projects that offer improved recreational opportunities for our residents. Our parks and recreation department renovated the disc golf course at Old Settlers Park and built 1.14 miles of new trail along Brushy Creek between Veterans Park and the Rabb House. Residents will continue to see improvements to trails and playground equipment in the coming year.
Sports tourism thrived in 2019, with 45 out of 52 weekends booked at the Multipurpose Complex and 46 weekend events at the Sports Center. We set a new benchmark of $1 million in revenue at these facilities to help offset costs, and our local economy benefited from the tourism generated by these events. Forest Creek Golf Club exceeded all expectations in its first full year since its renovation, posting positive net income that can be reinvested into the course’s maintenance.
Development continued to see sustained growth this year. In 2018, the city set a record for the most building permits issued at 4,157, and 2019 is on pace to break that record. While we saw more single-family homes built in 2018 than this past year, we’ve seen bigger commercial projects like Kalahari, Embassy Suites, La Quinta and Avid Hotels come through the development pipeline in 2019.
More housing is on the way with this year’s annexation and zoning of more than 750 acres in northeast Round Rock, which combined will eventually create over 2,000 single family homes and up to 700 multifamily units. Zoning was also approved this year for an integrated senior living project that will include 400 senior and low-density multifamily units.
As our community continues to grow, the revitalization and social fabric of our existing neighborhoods remains an important area of focus.
Our neighborhood services division’s new Outdoor Movie Chest was checked out 31 times for neighborhoods to host movie nights, and we launched a new lawn care foster program and pole tree saw kit program to help community organizations mow lawns and trim trees for those in need. We empowered residents to improve their homes through the new fence staining kit, and we helped families in need with minor home repairs funded by the Community Development Block Grant program.
Our Police and Fire Departments also continued to build trust and engage with the community in positive, proactive ways. The Fire Department oversaw the installation of 377 smoke detectors during neighborhood cleanups, and the Police Department received an award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police for its Operation Front Porch program, which aims to curb package thefts.
Long-range planning, public safety and quality of life initiatives all play a major role in achieving the success we saw in 2019. These programs wouldn’t be possible without the staff who make them happen, or the input we receive from residents.
This year, we began the process of updating our comprehensive plan with a six-month public engagement process that will help us develop vision and policies for development of our city over the next decade. As with so much of what we do on City Council, residents who have taken the time to let their voices be heard are helping us shape our future in a way that we can be assured will have an overall positive effect on our city.
It’s truly a team effort to create such a dynamic community, and I look forward to everything we plan to accomplish in 2020.
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:
Get local alerts through Warn Central Texas. Sign up for emergency warnings by voice, text or email at WarnCentralTexas.org.
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-familyproperty 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 makeup 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.
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 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
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.
We usually don’t think about budgets telling a story, but they do. And the City of Round Rock’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budgettells 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.
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:
Total capital spending for transportation is proposed to be $69.3 million
Annual funding for neighborhood street maintenanceof $4.3 million. The City has invested $12.5 million in street maintenance projects recently completed or currently inprogress
McNeil (East Bagdad) Extensionwill extendMcNeil Road east to Georgetown Street in Downtown
Construction of a new Fire Station No. 3,needed to improve response times in south Round Rock, estimated to be completedin November 2020
A new truck for the Fire Department’s fleet
Hiring anadditional Fire Code Inspector to help the Fire Prevention division keep up with the City’scommercial and residential growth
Two additional police officersand twoadditionalvictims’ assistantsto support efforts to keepRound Rock one of safest cities in nation, alongwith an additional assistant for public safety vehicle maintenance
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
Transportation and utility infrastructureimprovements for the northeast part of downtown, including planning and design of a future parkinggarage
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 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.
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!
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 tornadoesare 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.