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Focused on the road ahead

Note: Success doesn’t happen by accident. For the City of Round Rock, it’s been a decades-long process of strategic planning and methodical execution. The Future Forward series highlights our efforts to manage Round Rock’s rapid growth. 


It should surprise absolutely no one who’s lived here more than 5 minutes the issue most vexing to Round Rock residents is traffic. We get it. We drive in it every day, too.  

The problem, in a nutshell, is too many vehicles for not enough lanes of pavement. Duh, right? So how do you solve that problem? Simple: Create new connections and expand the road network. Duh, again. (And, yes, there are solutions other than laying down more asphalt, like transit and such. Patience, dear reader.) 

Of course, the create-new-connections and expand-the-roadway-network solution is complicated by the fact that we have an interstate highway and major state roads running through the community over which we have limited to no control. 

And then there’s paying for those new connections and roadway expansions. That’s not complicated, it’s just expensive.  

Back to complicated: Where do those connections/expansions need to be added, and when? 

Those questions are answered the Transportation Master Plan approved by the City Council in October 2017.  The Master Plan’s vision is to improve all forms of connectivity, including roads and public transportation, through planning and policy choices, partnerships, dedicated funding and targeted construction so that quality of life, economic opportunity and public safety are enhanced. 

Easier said than done, of course. The plan’s price tag is $1.2 billion. That’s a huge number but bear in mind that gets us to Round Rock’s ultimate build-out, when our population will be 250,000. To put that number into perspective: Since Round Rock’s half-cent sales tax for transportation went into effect in 1998, more than $533 million worth of projects have been completed. Of that, $203 million in funding came from the half-cent sales tax. The City used the sales tax revenue to leverage county, state and federal funds, as well as tapped private development contributions, to get to the total. (More perspective: Round Rock’s population was 61,212 in 1998.) So $1.2 billion is doable, over the long haul.  

Back to the question of precisely where the new roads need to go and when to build them. The Master Plan features a list of projects, ranked from 1 to 55, that are also segmented into short-term (2017-2020), mid-term (2020-2030) and long-term (2030-2040). The rankings are prioritized by the following measures: Safety and mobility (45%), connectivity (25%), environment (15%) and cost (15%). 

Work is currently under way on 8 of the top ten projects. Why not all 10? That brings us back to limited resources. We only have so much funding at the present time. There’s $53 million allocated in the City’s current budget for all things transportation. That total includes a mix of General Fund revenue, Type B revenue (that’s the sales tax we referenced two paragraphs ago) and our General Self Financed Construction Fund, which is fueled by excess General Fund revenues or unspent General Fund budget.  

The City has also submitted nearly $40 million in grant applications to CAMPO earlier this year for transportation funding.   

The Master Plan calls for finding new, sustainable sources of funding. A new method the City is considering is Roadway Impact Fees on new development. Roadway Impact Fees are one-time costs assessed to developers in order to improve roadway capacity. Public input is scheduled to occur this summer, and a draft ordinance is expected to be presented to City Council this fall. 

The City Council has had early discussions about a possible bond election for road projects, something it is likely to discuss in more detail at its budget retreat on July 12.  

Yes, dear and patient reader, we are also working on public transportation solutions. You can learn more about current transit services here, which grew from the Transit Master Plan we completed in 2015.  

We didn’t even get into other transportation options, like hike and bike trails, but we’ve got a plan for those as well, along with $21.6 million in bond funds targeted for four trail projects that will make staying off those frustrating roads a lot easier. 

Throw all those plans and options together, and you can see Round Rock is built for less stop and more go. 

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.

Our water runs deep

Note: Success doesn’t happen by accident. For the City of Round Rock, it’s been a decades-long process of strategic planning and methodical execution. The Future Forward series highlights our efforts to manage Round Rock’s rapid growth. 


“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”
– Sylvia Earle, marine biologist 

Hard to state it any more simply than that. Water may very well be the most important service provided by the City of Round Rock.  

So we take it seriously, and have for the past 40 years. That’s why the City is so well positioned today to have enough water when Round Rock reaches its projected ultimate population of 250,000. That’s decades away, but when you’re talking about planning a water utility, that’s the kind of time horizon you look at. 

That doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t worry about conserving water. By all means, take advantage of the City’s many conservation programs and educate yourself on how you can lower your bills by watering wisely. 

But one of the key elements in Round Rock’s ability to manage its inexorable growth is a forward-thinking utility that delivers reliable, affordable water.  

Long story short, Round Rock pretty much ran out of water in 1978. The combination of a prolonged drought, sole reliance on the Edwards Aquifer and rapid residential development meant folks went without water for a short period of time. City leaders vowed then to never put the community in that kind of situation again, and that led to the development of the strong, stable water utility we have today. 

How strong? The last round of debt issued by the utility, in December 2017, earned an AAA credit rating from Standard and Poor’s, the highest possible. Round Rock is the only Central Texas city with this rating for its utility.  

That rating was the culmination of four decades of hard work. After the wells went dry in ’78, the City contracted with the Brazos River Authority (BRA) to purchase water from Lake Georgetown. The City built a plant on the north end of town to treat that water. As growth continued, the City acquired future water supplies from the BRA, and ultimately partnered with other utilities to build a 28-mile pipeline to Lake Stillhouse Hollow near Belton.  

The forward thinking continued in 2006, when Round Rock partnered with Cedar Park and Leander to create the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority to treat and deliver water from Lake Travis. (There was no more future water to be acquired from the BRA.) Phase 1 of the regional project was completed in 2012, and Cedar Park and Leander have been utilizing the system for their customers since then. Round Rock isn’t expected to need Lake Travis water until 2020. 

So the water is there, and the infrastructure is in place, when we do need it. And will continue to be, even when our population more than doubles. That’s what Future Forward is all about.

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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Mayor: Round Rock’s strategic plan sets path for success

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


It’s no secret why Round Rock continues to gain national attention and accolades, with an increasing number of residents moving here to enjoy our beautiful parks, community events, recreational activities, economic opportunities, safe neighborhoods and local retail. Despite our fast growth, we’ve been able to maintain a family-friendly community that is distinctive by design.

As much as I and the rest of City Council would like to take credit for these great successes, many are the result of seeds that were planted in the past. As we harvest the fruits of our predecessor’s labors, we must continue the process that will set up Round Rock’s future generations and leadership for even more success.

In February, City Council held our annual two-day retreat, which allows us time to update and reprioritize our Strategic Plan, the foundation for all long-term City initiatives. We gathered at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex, a 60-acre, $27-million facility that was added to Old Settlers Park just this past year. Looking out at the well-kept fields and facilities, I couldn’t help but think about the seeds that were planted almost 15 years ago to make this project, and others like it, a reality in our community.

In 2004, the City of Round Rock launched the Sports Capital of Texas tourism program that has since led us to host an array of youth, amateur and recreational sporting events and build tournament-class facilities. Not only did the Council at the time understand the economic potential of this endeavor, but following Councils carried the torch to ensure its ongoing success. Just this past January, we recognized former Mayor Alan McGraw’s political courage and vision by dedicating the Round Rock Sports Center Complex in his honor.

Even today, our designation as the Sports Capital of Texas remains one of our top strategic goals. Our long-term goals haven’t changed much over the past few years, but we do revisit and reprioritize them as needed to meet the changing demands we face. Our strategic goals for the next five years remain the same from last year: Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services; City Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow; Great Community to Live; “The Sports Capital of Texas” for Tourism and Residents; Authentic Downtown – Exciting Community Destination; and Sustainable Neighborhoods – Old and New.

Maintaining the financial soundness of our City as well as providing infrastructure that serves the needs of our community now and in coming years remained the highest priorities. We’ve heard our residents loud and clear that we have room for improvement in the City’s road

network. In our most recent citizen survey, 77 percent of residents felt traffic flow in the City was worse compared to two years before. Although we have very little control over improvements to state roads and highways, we can do everything in our power to ensure that residents experience a safe and efficient network of City streets and have transportation options beyond personal vehicles.

Priorities that increased in importance this year were those that strive to make our city a “Great Community to Live” and maintaining an “Authentic Downtown.” We have seen so much change and success in Downtown Round Rock and want to see sustainable, responsible growth in the heart of our community.

Some might say we’re lucky to be the sort of community we are today. I would argue we’ve made our own luck over many years of 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.

Planning commission recommends approval of Kalahari zoning

The Round Rock Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the Kalahari Resort project at its March 7 meeting.

The next step will be a City Council public hearing and vote on the zoning. That is expected at a City Council meeting on April 12.

You can watch the presentations, discussion and subsequent votes from the P&Z meeting. The zoning applies to multiple parcels acquired by the City for the project. You can learn more about the rezoning process here.

Kalahari announced in June 2016 its intent to build a resort and convention center in Round Rock.

Below are some of the renderings shown by the project architect at the meeting.

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Kalahari zoning vote set for March 7 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting

Kalahari Resorts has submitted a zoning application to the City, and review and negotiations are under way between company representatives and staff. A public hearing and recommendation vote are scheduled for March 7 at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at City Hall, 221 E. Main St.

The company is planning a 1,000-room hotel, family resort and conference center on 351 acres on U.S. 79 across from the Dell Diamond. Kalahari Resorts feature large indoor waterparks which have been voted among the “World’s Coolest Indoor Waterparks.”

Based on its design needs and input from the public at a pair of open house meetings in May, Kalahari has produced an updated Site Plan. Revisions to the Site Plan were discussed at a Feb. 5 meeting with homeowner’s association representatives from Sonoma and Forest Ridge, Kalahari officials and City of Round Rock staff. Representatives from all adjacent neighborhoods were invited.

One of the most significant changes from the list of potential uses shown in May is there is no longer a request for a larger amphitheater/outdoor music venue. There is a request for small outdoor event areas where amplified music would be allowed.

Compared to the draft shown at the open house meetings last May, the buildings have shifted somewhat on the site, as though rotated clockwise. That was done in order to accommodate changes to the intersection at U.S. 79 and Harrell Parkway required by Union Pacific Railroad, as well as to save some of the big oak and pecan trees on the site, and other resort design considerations. The shift puts the indoor/outdoor waterpark closer to the neighborhoods, while the truck loading dock at the Convention Center is a little farther away from the neighborhoods (see site maps below).

The tallest buildings in the project will be farther away from the neighborhoods. The maximum requested building height is 180 feet, and that is only allowed for buildings at least 750 feet away from the southern property line. This represents a larger setback than would be required by standard zoning requirements. In the C-1a zoning district, a 180-foot tall building would be set back about 210 feet. Buildings less than 750 feet away from the southern property line can be a maximum of 75 feet tall; however, no buildings may be located in the floodplain. The existing PUD zoning at the site allows buildings 15 stories tall, which could permit structures exceeding 200 feet in height.

There remains no direct connection from the resort property to the Brushy Creek Trail. Guests could still access the trail from the sidewalk that exists today along Kenney Fort Boulevard.

As for the traffic plan, City staff are comfortable the planned intersection and street network improvements will be adequate to handle traffic flows to and around the site.

A pair of detention ponds have been added to the Site Plan, along the southern boundary of the project. The ponds are designed to control runoff from the project into Brushy Creek in order to mitigate impacts to upstream and downstream properties.

Once the public hearing is held by the Planning and Zoning Commission and a vote is taken, a public hearing and final vote will then occur at a future City Council meeting. We will reach out to nearby neighborhoods and inform residents of future meetings once they are scheduled.

For background information on the project, visit roundrocktexas.gov/kalahari.

Round Rock recognizes local third-grader for incredible service to community

You don’t have to be old to stand tall for your community! Gracie Garbade, a student at Patsy Sommer Elementary, does just that and she’s only a little more than half way through third grade.

In fact, Gracie started helping others and serving the community when she was just 5 years old. She wanted to help feed the homeless, especially homeless children.

After talking with her family, they came up with the idea of a food drive.

“I was driving with my mom and I saw homeless people and I felt bad for them,” Gracie said. “The plan was we would set up multiple different booths in our neighborhood, and we would ask family and friends, and make lots of posters.”

Her first year, she collected 100 pounds of food by setting up simple donation stands in her neighborhood and asking those she knew for help. Fast-forward to 2017 and her efforts multiplied, touching the lives of many more as she was able to collect over 1,100 pounds of food by leading the charge to create a school-wide donation drive.

She talked to classrooms and even spoke on the school announcements to get the word out.

“My goal is for everyone in the world to have enough food to eat,” she said.

According to others, Gracie has a heart of gold and is always helping others, one year even going so far as writing a letter to Santa asking him to bring gifts for all the kids in need.

Seeing this story and understanding the incredible importance of people helping people, City Council, at its Feb. 22, 2018 meeting, took time to consider a special presentation in recognition of Gracie’s service to Round Rock. Mayor Craig Morgan also had a special one-on-one meeting with the young leader and her mother.

Thank you, Gracie. Our community, state, nation, and world need more people like you.

Mayor Morgan on the City Council dais with Gracie and her brother.

 

Mayor: UniverCity program gives inside look of city

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


Local government touches our lives every day, often in ways that we take for granted.

First responders and building inspectors keep us and our families safe. Engineers design essential infrastructure, including the roads we travel and the pipes that bring water to our homes.

Planners help envision and shape city growth while maintaining the uniqueness of Round Rock. Parks and Recreation provides ways for us to connect with each other and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Employees across several departments maintain our existing infrastructure to keep our investments in working condition. Our city managers work with stakeholders from across our City to make the goals we set on City Council a reality. In addition to these necessary services, the City of Round Rock persistently works to meet changing citizen demands, advances in technology, and new federal and state mandates.

Our residents have a unique opportunity to learn more about how their local government works in UniverCity, the City of Round Rock’s citizen education class. Initially implemented by Community Engagement Administrator Joseph Brehm, UniverCity allows participants to experience firsthand the work it takes to run a city department. City staff hosts presentations to discuss operations, budget and challenges, and leads the class on tours of City of Round Rock facilities such as the Police Department, fire stations, park facilities and our sign shop. City Council members also attend portions of the class for question-and-answer sessions with participants.

Our first class graduated in December and was comprised of several community leaders from diverse backgrounds and interests. UniverCity received excellent feedback, and graduates said they felt much more knowledgeable about City services. Due to the popularity of the program, staff plans to conduct the classes twice per year, with one in the spring and one in the fall. At this time, applications are based on referrals from community leaders and those who have been through the program.

Most importantly, UniverCity provides useful experience for anyone who has considered serving on a City of Round Rock commission or taking another leadership role in our community. In an era of low voter turnout, we are constantly looking at ways to better engage citizens so that our City can continue to count on having informed and engaged leaders to continue Round Rock’s successes in the future.

Even after serving on City Council for almost seven years, I can tell you that there is always something new to learn about the way our City government functions and plans for the future. It is my hope that our graduates leave feeling as inspired as I do every day by all that our public servants do to make our community a great place to live.

To inquire about the nomination process for upcoming classes or other questions about UniverCity, please email Neighborhood Services Coordinator Katy Price at kprice@roundrocktexas.gov.