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Halley: Looking back at Round Rock Library’s growth

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


Geeta Halley, Assistant Director of Round Rock Public Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor Morgan: Plans for Downtown Round Rock move forward

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


Mayor Craig Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round Rock reminds residents to turn off sprinklers as fall weather settles in

Cooler fall temperatures should translate to good news for you — lower water bills! As winter gets closer, the plants in your yard are going dormant and have very low water requirements. You should have already moved to a once per week watering schedule and turned off your sprinklers altogether when rain is expected. If you’re not ready to go cold turkey on watering, you can start by decreasing run times in some of the less visible zones of your yard.

In addition to cost savings to you on next month’s water bill, here are some other great reasons to consider lowering your water use:

The City of Round Rock uses the average of your water consumption during cooler winter months to determine wastewater charges for the rest of the year. The City assumes these months will be the lowest water use months of the year, as there is no or minimal outdoor use due to typical rainfall and climate conditions. Therefore, all the water you are using is going down the drain or is for indoor use. During the summer months, any consumption above that winter average is not charged additional wastewater fees because it is assumed to be going on your yard, or into your pool.

Believe it or not, the Brazos River Authority (BRA) is reporting drier than normal conditions at Lake Georgetown, which provides a large portion of the City of Round Rock’s drinking water. The BRA has already implemented drought contingency measures for Lake Georgetown, which includes a voluntary ask for a 5 percent reduction in water use. Though the City has not yet implement conservation stages from its drought contingency plan, Stage I could take effect once Lake Georgetown elevation’s falls below 770 feet above mean sea level (msl) for three consecutive days. It is currently just under 777 feet.

By turning off your sprinklers, you’re benefitting both your wallet and your community! For more ideas on how to save water, visit roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

Mayor Morgan: Council continues to evolve while moving community forward

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


Mayor Craig Morgan

As the country was glued to TVs and computers last week, waiting for national election results, I found myself reflecting on a framed picture of my first City Council as mayor that hangs on my wall.

Four of the seven members I served with on that council have all moved on, making way for newcomers who brought new ideas and perspectives. Each new face along the way has changed our discussions based on the various backgrounds they brought to the table.

We will soon welcome two new Council Members, Michelle Ly and Frank Ortega, who were elected by Round Rock voters in the Nov. 3 election. I was proud to see the races for both available seats on our council this year were run with honesty and integrity, and we are ready to work with our newest members to lead our community through its continued growth.

Becoming a City Council member is a little bit like drinking water from a firehose. Before their swearing in next month, our newest council members will go through an orientation process, meeting staff members and learning more about the city’s departments and operations, which include public safety, parks, utilities and environmental services, transportation, sports tourism, finance and much more. Before each meeting, council members will be given a packet of information to go over so they have questions and comments ready for staff at our packet briefings.

The seven members of Round Rock City Council serve three-year terms, with races on the ballot every year. With the potential of new council members on an annual basis, it’s important that we have a strong yet flexible framework that guides our community forward through our continued growth.

One of the keys to smooth transitions over the years has been our strategic plan, which is comprised of six goals that create a foundation for long-term city initiatives. We have an annual retreat that occurs at the beginning of each calendar year that allows us time to update and reprioritize the plan.

We’ve seen success through this long-term planning and vision casting, and must continue to do so in the coming years and decades to maintain and grow our hard-earned reputation for success. This is not to say change doesn’t happen or isn’t encouraged; growth and change are built into Round Rock’s DNA. However, it provides a level of stability that ensures we don’t lose our focus on the long-term health of our community while also taking care of more immediate needs.

I would be remiss not to mention the incredible service and dedication of our outgoing council members, Will Peckham and Tammy Young. They always came prepared to every council meeting with thoughtful questions, and they truly love this community. Their servant leadership started well before their time on the council, and they will no doubt continue to be actively involved in making our community a better place to live.

During her time on the council, Tammy served on the board of the Round Rock Chamber, the Executive Committee of the Capital Area Council of Governments, the Capital Area Economic Development District, the Clean Air Coalition and as executive liaison to the Aging Advisory Council. She has been a Round Rock school district teacher and previously led a nonprofit for children with ADHD in New Mexico to provide resources to under-served children.

During his time on the council, Will served on the Round Rock Transportation and Economic Development Corporation board of directors, the Round Rock Chamber Board of Directors, the Williamson County A&M Foundation and Whitlow Task Force for Capitol IDEA. He also previously served the city through our Ethics Review Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the 2013 Williamson County Bond Advisory Committee.

At the city of Round Rock, we aim to be an example of how to do things right in government. We are fortunate to have such amazing people in our community willing to step up and guide us through more years of growth and positive change. It’s not an easy job, but it’s one of the most rewarding ways to give back to our city. I am grateful to those who have chosen the same calling in years and decades past, and look forward to seeing what we will accomplish in the future.

CDC offers guidance for Halloween activities

When the weather cools off, it’s a good sign that holiday season is coming soon to Round Rock. In true 2020 fashion, holidays — including Halloween — will most likely look a little different from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many traditional Halloween activities, in particular, can be high-risk for spreading viruses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency is offering ideas for several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween this year.

The City of Round Rock does not set a specific day or time for trick-or-treating. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Lower risk activities

These lower risk activities are listed as the safest alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Moderate risk activities

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
    • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
    • Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.

Higher risk activities

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

Learn more at cdc.gov

Take a peek inside America’s largest indoor waterpark

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions reveals a never-before-seen inside look at its newest resort in Round Rock, Texas, with a 360-degree video tour of America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark and resort, opening Nov. 12. The video offers a behind-the-scenes view of the property, including a guided tour of construction progress updates.

“We can’t wait to open our doors and welcome the Texas community to the Kalahari experience this fall,” said Kalahari owner Todd Nelson. “We have 1.5 million square feet of space to play and room to roam. It’s been a challenging year, and what better way to get away from the worry and enjoy time having fun together as a family and community.”

Kalahari Resorts also introduces Tim Arnold as resort general manager and Gerson Valasquez as assistant general manager of Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, Round Rock.

As general manager, Tim Arnold will lead day-to-day operations, provide guidance to the management team and serve as the liaison to the regional Round Rock community. Tim brings more than 20 years of hospitality experience with a successful career in luxury resorts and regional multiunit, cutting-edge restaurant and residential properties. Notably, he has held executive leadership roles at Waldorf Astoria, Canyon Ranch, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, and Interstate Hotels and Resorts.

In his role as assistant general manager, Gerson Valasquez leverages 20 years of experience leading high-volume catering and banquet divisions, managing operations of fine-dining restaurants, and supporting the management of rooms, food and beverage and maintenance departments at properties in Houston, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia.

“Tim and Gerson both bring a strong history of successfully building and leading teams, and we’re confident that they’ll help us bring Kalahari’s beyond-expectations guest experience to Texas,” said Nelson.

Kalahari continues to seek additional talent to join its growing team, estimating hiring 700 employees in 2020 to fill open positions, including lifeguards, managerial staff, culinary staff and information technology work. For more information, visit kalahariresorts.com/kalahari-careers/.

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions will open America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark in Round Rock, Texas, on Nov. 12. The unique all-under-one-roof experience offers state-of-the-art meeting and convention space, delicious dining options, award-winning indoor/outdoor attractions, retail shopping, and Spa Kalahari and Salon. This is the fourth Kalahari Resort, with existing properties in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information about Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, visit KalahariResorts.com/Texas.

Drive-through Career Fair

Kalahari is hiring! The company held a “drive thru” Career Fair from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, at the resort, 3001 Kalahari Blvd., Gate 3. Jobs are available in housekeeping, waterpark, food and beverage, culinary and front office.

Mayor Morgan: City’s economic indicators show promise

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


Mayor Craig Morgan

Any athlete knows that endurance is important. However, as we enter the sixth month of COVID-19′s presence in Central Texas, it’s still unclear how far the finish line lies ahead.

In a survey distributed by the city of Round Rock in April about the effects of COVID-19, 72 percent of respondents said the economic impact of the pandemic on our local community was a primary concern of theirs. We’ve continued monitoring economic conditions and have recently been able to obtain better and more localized data. I’m happy to report the economic decline has not been as deep as we originally prepared ourselves for — however, we still do not completely understand the duration, or how long these conditions will continue to impact our community. In general, Round Rock has fared better than we expected.

While unemployment was still in double digits nationally in July, our local unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent, down from 10.7 percent in April. However, that’s still triple the percentage it was at the beginning of this year. We are fortunate to have a diverse economy, especially one that is not dependent on oil, as many of our neighbors across Texas are.

Strong sales tax revenues are a big reason that our property tax rate in Round Rock compares favorably to cities around us and across the state, but sales tax is also a volatile revenue source that can drop in times of economic distress. At the start of the pandemic, the city had collected $1.4 million above this year’s expected sales tax revenues. At that time, we thought we might be able to have a surplus of $3 to $4 million by the end of the year that could be used to free up funding for more projects. While we haven’t gained the ground we expected, we haven’t seen a loss in the ground we already had gained. We saw a surge in sales tax revenues in March and April from one specific business – Dell Technologies – and the reopening of retail establishments in June helped re-establish local spending. Most of our major retailers have reopened – IKEA, Round Rock Premium Outlets, movie theaters and some of our big box retailers. Many restaurants have also been able to remain open. However, entertainment venues have suffered a tremendous impact. Bars closed again on June 26 based on statewide orders, and Dell Diamond did not have a minor league season. Other businesses have just not been able to weather the economic downturn. The good news is, although we saw a dip in consumer confidence in April, it has bounced back and is trending upward again.

Occupancy in local hotels is also increasing after a drop in April. Our peak season for tourism is March through June, which saw the biggest impact from COVID-19-related closures. These revenues, which support local tourism efforts and our Sports Capital of Texas initiatives, were down 28 percent for that peak period compared to last year.

 

Overall, development is strong. Although some businesses have not been able to survive the current economic conditions, many of our businesses are using this moment to pivot and thrive. Our local and small businesses are a huge part of our community, because they are owned and supported by people right here in Round Rock. One of my biggest sources of hope through this pandemic was Round Rock Cares, a local fund that was established to support these types of businesses, which raised $419,500 that helped 241 small businesses. I hope we continue that spirit of supporting our local businesses moving forward.

As we take a brief moment to reflect on the positive indicators we are seeing, we know that we cannot let our guard down. We all must continue to follow state and CDC guidelines to suppress the spread of COVID-19 so that our economy can continue to thrive and residents can continue to make a living. By remaining diligent in our health practices and supporting each other, we will continue to get through this together.

Shop the Rock: Civic duty or just the right thing to do? Yes! 

Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts about the City of Round Rock’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget and tax rate. 

shop the rock logoWant better roads? How about better parks? All you have to do is Shop the Rock! 

Seriously, head over to the outlets and buy those shoes, or venture downtown for lunch. It doesn’t matter if you are shopping, dining or getting your pet groomed; your dollars are helping to build our community. What makes this possible? Sales tax.  

For every $100 in purchases by visitors, residents and businesses, the City collects $2 in sales tax revenues. The General Fund, which pays for public safety, parks, library and other basic City services, gets $1, while 50 cents goes to property tax reduction and the remaining 50 cents goes to the Type B Fund to pay for roads and economic development.  

In the proposed fiscal 2021 budget, sales tax revenue makes up $48.3 million of the General Fund budget – that’s 40 percent. Property tax revenue, by comparison, makes up 37 percent.  

Clearly, sales tax revenue is vitally important to Round Rock’s budget. The 50 cents out of every $100 spent in Round Rock that goes into the Type B Fund helps address Round Rock’s biggest challenge: traffic. Since approved by voters in 1997, that half-cent has generated $600 million worth of transportation improvements. It also helps fund the City’s economic development partnership with the Round Rock Chamber, which brings high-quality, high-paying jobs to the community 

And about that 50 cents earmarked for property tax reduction. It reduces the property tax rate for FY 2021 by 14.4 cents. That saves the median homeowner $31 per month, or 25 percent, on their monthly tax bill. 

Paying for new roads and keeping our property tax rate among the lowest in the state — what other reasons do you need to Shop the Rock? 

So next time you see a shirt you love, buy it! Your city – and your tax bill – will thank you. 

Building new roads, maintaining old ones impacts tax rate proposal 

Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts about the City of Round Rock’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget and tax rate. 

Update: The City Council approved on first reading the Fiscal Year 2021 budget and tax rate on Aug. 27.

Building additional capacity for Round Rock’s future transportation needs while also making sure to take care of existing streets requires considerable resources, i.e., money. The proposed fiscal year 2021 budget includes $91.7 million in capital spending for transportation. 

The spending aligns with one of the City Council’s top strategic goalsCity Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow. It also addresses what our citizens have told us in every biennial survey we’ve done since 1998: Traffic is the biggest problem facing Round Rock.  

Of course, some of the price tag for tackling a problem of this magnitude falls on residential and commercial property taxpayers.  

The City embarked on a five-year, $240-million road building program called Driving Progress in 2018. The program is funded in part by bonds backed by property taxes, and will improve traffic flows on major corridors like Gattis School Road and University Boulevard. 

In April 2019, the City issued $30 million in certificates of obligation (COs) to kick off funding for the program. This past April, the City Council approved the second round of $30 million in COs. Because lending markets were hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the City was able to borrow the second $30 million for a significantly lower interest cost than the first $30 million. 

That means less impact on the proposed property tax rate, but an impact nonetheless. Of the proposed 1.3 cent tax increase, 0.3 cents goes to paying back the second round of COs. 

The balance of the potential increase – the City Council will make its first vote on the tax rate at its Thursday, Aug. 27 meeting – is earmarked to pay for neighborhood street maintenance. You can read about the street maintenance/tax impact issue in our prior budget blog post. 

Lest you think the entire burden for paying for new roads is being borne by property taxes, remember the City Council approved Roadway Impact Fees in March 2019, which are paid by developers to cover some of the costs of expanding our transportation network necessitated by their projects. 

About the proposed tax rate 

The proposed property tax rate is 43.9 cents, the same as the current tax rate. It’s an increase of 3.2 percent above the “no new revenue” tax rate of 42.5 cents, which takes into account the 2.8 percent growth in existing property values from last year. 

At the proposed rate, the owner of a median valued home would pay $94 per month in City property taxes, or $3 more than last year. The median home value in Round Rock for FY 2021 is $256,347. 

For those of you wondering why the City’s growth won’t pay for the needed transportation projects, here’s your answer: New property valued at $294 million was added to the property tax roll since last year. This amount of new property will generate $1.3 million in additional property tax revenues. 

Sales tax revenue continues to be a critical source for funding City services – as well as $86 million worth of transportation infrastructure in the proposed budget but we’ll talk in more detail about that in next week’s budget blog. Spoiler alert: It’s a big deal. (Can’t wait? Read more about it here.) 

While no one likes paying more in property taxes, it helps to have some perspective. Round Rock’s property tax rate is among the lowest in the Texas, as the chart below shows, and few cities receive the kind of recognition we do for affordability and livability.

Building additional roadway capacity and taking care of what’s already built isn’t easy – or cheap – but Round Rock has found a way to do it that minimizes the impact on the tax rate. 

Budget maintains focus on strategic priorities to keep community on track for long-term progress 

Note: This is the third in a series of posts about the City of Round Rock’s proposed fiscal 2021 budget and tax rate. 

Maintaining a strategic focus yearin and yearout, in good times and bad, is one reason Round Rock is featured on so many “Best Place lists. The proposed budget continues that practice, prioritizing spending on projects that drive long-term progress on keeping Round Rock a great place to live and run a business. 

Even though the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is $25 million less than the budget approved this time last year, it still funds key programs of the City Council’s strategic priorities. 

Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services 

The Council’s top priority is supported in our General Fund budget, with funding for maintenance and upgrades for facilities, parks and technology. Because of reduced revenues, the “buckets” for these programs are being funded at reduced levels.  

The budget also includes step increases and market adjustments for public safety staff, and cost of living increases and market adjustments, if needed, for general government staff.  


City Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow 

Keeping up with water, wastewater, stormwater and transportation improvements is critical to maintaining quality of life in a fast-growing community like Round Rock. 

The 2021 spending plan includes $91.7 million for road and street projects, and $77.2 million for water and wastewater improvements, including a major expansion of a regional wastewater treatment plant. 

The transportation projects slated for funding include: 

The City Council is also considering an additional $1.5 million for neighborhood street maintenance.


Sports Capital of Texas for Tourism and Residents 

Our Go Round Rock tourism program had to hit the pause button due to the significant impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry, but there are bright spots and the future still holds much promise. 

The Round Rock Sports Center continues to be self-supporting through the hotel-motel venue tax. The Round Rock Multipurpose Complex has reopened, under health guidelines from the Governor and CDC, and is beginning to recover revenues lost in the current fiscal year. And City-owned Forest Creek Golf Club is on track to cover expenses again this year, following extensive renovation and a shutdown in 2018. 

The best news for the tourism program came in July, when Kalahari Resorts announced it was on track to open on Nov. 12 its hotel, indoor water park and convention center. 


Great Community to Live 

Two of the final projects from the 2013 bond election are included in this priority: a new library and major sections of the Brushy Creek Regional Trail system.  

There is $8.6 million earmarked for the Heritage Trail and Lake Creek Trail projects, which will connect neighborhoods west of I-35 to downtown. The budget also includes $1 million for the Behren’s Ranch Nature Park. 

While the new library is scheduled to break ground in FY21, it won’t be completed until November 2023.  

The budget plan includes $1.8 million for improvements to the South Mays Street commercial corridor, which will be funded with Type B sales tax revenues. 


Authentic Downtown – Exciting Community Destination 

Significant infrastructure improvements for Northeast Downtown are planned, in part to support the new library mentioned above as well as continued redevelopment in the area. A total of $6.4 million is budgeted for water, wastewater, drainage, transportation and dry utility improvements. 

The budget also includes funds for continuing the Hometown Holiday lights and displays as well as marketing initiatives for Downtown Round Rock. 


Sustainable Neighborhoods – Old and New 

The most significant expenditure for neighborhoods is $1.5 million for street maintenance. The City Council has prioritized funding for maintaining our neighborhood streets to keep them good condition based on the fact that ongoing maintenance is less expensive over time than rebuilding them. Since 2015, the City has allocated $22.3 million for neighborhood street maintenance. 

The budget continues to fund our Neighborhood Services program, which provides services for active and engaged neighborhoods to revitalize themselves using community resources. 

The FY21 budget proposal keeps Round Rock on track to achieving its long-term vision, as well as providing the basic services needed to keep the community so livable for residents and businesses.