The City of Round Rock’s financial position continues to face challenges caused by the economic uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, but budgeted revenues were slightly higher than expected, according to Chief Financial Officer Susan Morgan.
Local economic conditions are improving, with the September 2020 jobs report better than expected, including a lower unemployment rate – at 5.0 percent, Morgan said. Still, more than 53,000 Williamson County residents have filed for unemployment since March. Morgan said it is still unclear how the current wave of COVID-19 infections will impact unemployment.
The information was presented as part of Morgan’s quarterly economic and fiscal update to the Round Rock City Council on Dec. 3.
Among the major retailers still open include Round Rock Premium Outlets, IKEA, Cinemark 14, Marshalls, Ross and Bed Bath & Beyond. Major business closings include the Dell Diamond, which lost the 2020 minor league baseball season but has hosted limited events, as well as smaller businesses like Flix Brewhouse, Pier 1 Imports, Stein Mart, Justice and some small restaurants.
Citywide sales tax revenue for fiscal 2020, which ended in September, were up 3.4 percent over the prior year. Retail sales were down 1.5 percent and restaurants were down 8.1 percent. Sales tax revenue from Dell Technologies was up 5.6 percent.
Sales tax revenue pays for general government services, major transportation improvements, economic development activities and offsets property tax revenue.
General Fund revenues were expected to decrease by 17 percent due to the pandemic, but finished the fiscal year within 3 percent of original budgeted estimates.
While recent news on COVID vaccine releases are encouraging, the City’s economic environment is still dominated by significant unknowns including the duration of the downturn locally and overall long term impacts.
For the current fiscal year, trends indicate better revenues than budgeted, but the City remains cautious about Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) revenues. HOT and Venue tax collections were down 24.8 percent over last year, but are slightly better than the projected decline.
Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center opened Nov. 12 with 975 rooms and there are currently 551 hotel rooms under construction at other venues.
For City utilities, water revenues ended the year higher than last year due to drier, warmer weather conditions, with 12 percent more water sold in FY 2020. Wastewater revenue ended on target, as did stormwater revenue.
A mid-year budget amendment may be needed, Morgan said, and the finance staff continues to closely monitor revenues and economic activity.
Most economic reports are projecting a full recovery by 2023, Morgan said.