Mayor Craig Morgan pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of his most recent feature.
Feedback is an essential tool we use to improve ourselves. Whether it’s through a supervisor at the office, a coach on a sports team or customers of a business, we can grow in all walks of life by receiving evaluations of our work and taking appropriate action.
The same can be said for myself as mayor and my fellow Round Rock City Council members. We receive feedback through many channels — at public hearings, social media and even at the grocery store or church. These comments help us implement ideas that help us tailor city ordinances as well as the budget that we pass each year.
While it’s great to hear individual feedback, the council is charged with representing all 100,000-plus residents across our city and making the best decisions for our entire community as a whole. That’s why our biennial community survey is an essential tool for us to gauge the overall sentiment of Round Rock residents.
Since 1998, the city has conducted a survey of its citizens every other year to see how well we are meeting their needs and to help set priorities for the community. ETC Institute conducts the survey in the spring to a random sample of 400-plus households across the entire city. Having this statistically valid, big picture view of public perception helps round out the individual feedback that we receive on a day-to-day basis.
So how did we fare? ETC’s major findings showed 84 percent of all residents surveyed are satisfied with the overall quality of life in Round Rock, and 82 percent are satisfied with city services. This is outstanding when compared to our peers — an average of 66 percent of Texans statewide reported being satisfied with overall quality of life in their cities and less than half of Texans reported being satisfied with the overall quality of services provided by their municipal government.
I commend our employees’ efforts to maintain and improve our city, and their constant focus on customer service. For most, Round Rock is their home, too, and they have a vested interest in keeping it a great place to live.
Round Rock residents reported being most pleased with our public safety services, including fire and police, as well as parks and recreation. Approximately 90 percent of survey respondents said they had an overall feeling of being “safe” or “very safe” in Round Rock.
We had a feeling we would see negative feedback in one category, and you can probably guess what it was: traffic.
Approximately 76 percent of residents said they feel traffic is getting worse, compared to 56 percent of respondents in 2010. Residents were also asked to rate the traffic flow in different areas of the city. Forty-five percent of respondents rated traffic flow in and around neighborhoods as “excellent” or “good,” and only 14 percent of respondents rated traffic flow on state roads and highways as “excellent” or “good.”
However, the cleanliness and maintenance of both major city and neighborhood streets received a majority of positive responses in the survey, thanks to the hard work of our transportation department and increased funding to our budget in this area.
With multiple Texas Department of Transportation projects underway on Interstate 35, Round Rock has an intimate understanding that traffic oftentimes has to get worse before it gets better. We celebrated the early opening of the FM 3406 bridge over Interstate 35 in June and look forward to more milestones as these projects are completed.
More good news: We have already put a plan in motion to prepare for the future as we are taking care of the present. In order to meet our current and future transportation demands, city staff unveiled an updated transportation master plan in October. We know what needs to be done long-term to be able to one day serve the total buildout of our city at a population of 250,000. But it comes with a hefty price tag: $1.2 billion.
Capital road improvements are also a slow process at best. New roads, drainage and pedestrian facilities must be carefully designed to serve current and future needs. Land must be acquired to construct these improvements.
Contractors must be carefully selected based on the value to the taxpayer. Stakeholders are consulted when a potential conflict arises. All of this must be done while more than 100 new residents are moving to the Round Rock-Austin area on a daily basis.
The survey also showed that climbing property taxes continue to be a concern for our residents due to rising valuations and the ongoing battle regarding state and local funding of schools — a topic you can expect to hear more about in the coming months.
As one portion of your overall property tax bill, we work to keep the city’s property tax rate among the lowest in our area while also providing the services at the level our residents expect. We have additional resources in Round Rock to accomplish road projects thanks to the voter-approved dedication of a half-cent of our sales tax, and we work closely with our regional partners to secure outside funding to supplement our road projects.
We used the survey to begin gauging general public opinion on potentially using a bond election as an additional tool to get started on even more road projects in our community — a topic we considered at our council retreat in February. More than half of survey respondents who had an opinion on the topic said they would support a bond package to fund road projects.
The conversation doesn’t stop here. I encourage you to continue engaging with the city through public meetings, community events and on social media. We recently held our first Coffee with the Mayor, which was modeled after Round Rock Police Department’s popular Coffee with the Cop program, and are currently planning another one.
I invite you to join us to share your concerns and ideas with myself and other council members to help us keep our city a place you are proud to call home.
To see the full community survey results and analysis, visit roundrocktexas.gov.