The City of Round Rock stormwater drainage team reminds you that this week is Texas Native Plant Week.
Native plants are a good choice whether you are planting a tree, shrub, flowers, vines or grasses because they are acclimated to our local conditions and soils, provide habitat for wildlife, typically require less water and maintenance once established, and do not rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to thrive.
These homegrown plants also give us a sense of place and help maintain the region’s wide variety of flora and fauna. Not only do they provide all of these wonderful benefits, but they are beautiful, too!
What better place to check out native plants -- and buy some -- than the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 13 and 14, the Wildflower Center hosts its Fall Plant Sale & Gardening Festival. You can choose from nearly 300 species of Texas native plants. The event also features artists and authors signing their works in the store, guided walks and talks and tips for your garden from experts and kids activities.
Admission is $9 adults, $7 seniors and students, $4 UT faculty, staff or students with identification, $3 children ages 5 through 12, members and children under 5 free.
For more information, call 232-0100. Stop by the booth of the Native Plant Society of Texas Austin Chapter and the Williamson County Chapter.
The City of Round Rock is seeking input regarding the Railroad Quiet Zone project. We held an Open House to present preliminary information and gather public input on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at the Baca Center.
UPDATE: Comments recieved through Friday, Sept. 21, will be included in the project record as comments received as part of the Open House meeting. Any comments received after that will be listened to, responded to and listed in project file notes but will not be included as part of the public meeting record.
The purpose of the Quiet Zone project is to make necessary safety improvements to six public at-grade highway-rail crossings along the Union Pacific Railroad’s mainline so that train operators will not be required to sound their horns.
Here is a map that shows the locations of the crossings (PDF) included in the project.
The individual crossings included in this project, and the recommended changes, are:
- County Road 172 at McNeil Road (PDF) will add raised medians to the roadway and additional signs
- Saint Williams Street at McNeil Road (PDF) is recommended for closure. The map shows alternate routes for motorists in Chisholm Valley.
is recommended for closure. The cost to convert this intersection so it could remain open will more than double the cost for the entire project, while reasonable alternatives for access already exist. We have run the timing of the alternatives, and in no case does it take more than three minutes on average, and most often is two minutes or less. The map shows alternate routes for motorists in Chisholm Valley.
- Raised medians and additional signs are recommended for the IH-35 frontage roads at McNeil Road (PDF)
- Installation of a "quad gate" is recommended for South Burnet Street at Park Lane (PDF -- schematic of this recommendation is on the left side of the page)
- New signs are recommended at Red Bud Lane at U.S. 79 (PDF -- schematic of this recommendation is on the right side of the page), where raised medians are already in place.
The project does not include the crossings on RM 620 at Chisholm Trail Road and on Sam Bass Road at Wonder Drive.
You can offer comments on the proposal at the City's Decision Points blog, or by contacting Chad Wood, P.E., city Transportation Engineer, at 218-6601.
The City of Round Rock’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget features a tax rate slightly lower than last year while increasing funding for street maintenance by 36 percent, and maintaining an emphasis on public safety, community development and parks.
City Manager Steve Norwood formally presented the draft budget (PDF) to the City Council on Aug. 1. The City Council will review the budget at its Aug. 14-15 annual planning retreat. The budget and tax rate will be voted on at the Council’s two regularly scheduled meetings in September. A helpful Budget In Brief (PDF) document provides a high level overview of the budget. We've also compiled an FAQ for the budget.
“The City continues to take a conservative, long-term approach to its financial and operational planning,” Norwood said. “The decisions that are made now will strongly influence what the City will look like and how it will operate for years to come.”
Priorities addressed in this budget provide adequate funding to maintain current service levels in a growing community, with the exception of increased funding for street maintenance.
The budget proposes a tax rate of 42.035 cents per $100 of property value, compared to 42.321 cents last year. The owner of an average value home would pay $732.29 under the proposal, about $12 less than last year.
The City of Round Rock continues to have a property tax rate that is among the lowest of any medium-to-large city in the state, including those cities with an additional half-cent sales tax for property tax reduction.
Sales tax revenue is extremely important to the City in that it reduces property taxes and makes up approximately 51 percent of the General Fund revenue. Sales tax revenues have seen a stabilization trend for the past two years, and are continuing.
While Dell sales tax figures continue to show declines from the previous year, sales tax from other sources within the City help to reduce the impact. Due to the volatile nature of sales tax revenues, a conservative approach was utilized in estimating this budgeted amount. Reflecting current and anticipated economic conditions, this budget includes a sales tax estimate for the General Fund of $45 million.
Water and wastewater rates will remain unchanged from current rates. The City Council adopted a four-tier water rate structure in May that is designed to encourage conservation.
“I believe the proposed budget reflects a fiscally responsible approach to improving the City’s current infrastructure, and meet the current demands while maintaining the City’s strong financial position,” Norwood said. “We look forward to Round Rock citizens input and discussion of the FY 2013 proposed operating budget.”
Public hearings will be conducted at the Sept. 13 and Sept. 27 Council meetings.
On Aug. 13, the City of Round Rock staff celebrates “Storm Water New Year” as we reach the end of another storm water permit year. Our mandatory permit requires the City to maintain and hopefully improve water quality in our creeks and waterways. Each we are required to report our accomplishments to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
This year is particularly significant as we reach the end of our five-year permit term which requires full implementation of the Best Management Practices and accomplishment of goals listed in the permit (PDF).
We are proud to say that we completed all of the permit requirements but we realize there is still much work to do. The 2012 City Survey (PDF) revealed 43.5 percent of Round Rock citizens are “Very Satisfied” or “Satisfied” with the “City storm water education and outreach efforts.” However, it also revealed there is another 10.4 percent who expect more. Our own (non-statistical) storm water awareness survey demonstrated that approximately one-third of respondents do NOT know our storm inlets drain directly to creeks. What!?! That is right – we have a ‘storm drain’ system that drains directly to creeks without filtration or treatment.
Round Rock grew 20 percent and gained more than 17,000 residents in the last permit term (2007-2012). Many of our new residents are from older areas of the country where storm “sewers” combine with wastewater flows and pass through a treatment plant. They do not realize that if they throw their cigarette butt into the inlet, blow their grass clippings into the street or fail to properly pick up after a pet … the next rains will carry all of this into our creeks. Yuck!
Look for more information and outreach from the Round Rock Storm Water team as we work toward increasing residents’ understanding of how they can help improve the water quality in our creeks. In the meantime, please visit storm water on the city website for more information.
It is estimated that up to 90 percent of those impairments are due to polluted storm water. Storm Water is the result of rain runoff and even snowmelt that travels across roofs, yards, parking lots and streets and into our creeks and waterways.
We are currently conducting a survey to gauge residents’ knowledge and perceptions about storm water so that we can tailor future outreach and pollution prevention efforts. The survey is available through April at http://www.roundrocktexas.gov/survey.
In 2007, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) began requiring urbanized areas to create a Storm Water Management Program to maintain and improve local water quality. TCEQ required cities to create a plan and obtain a permit to ensure compliance with EPA regulations and the Clean Water Act.
The Storm Water Management Plan addresses several TCEQ mandated elements:
- Public Education and Outreach
- Public Participation
- Illicit Discharge Detection
- Construction and Post Construction Storm Water Management
- Pollution Prevention
Please help us by providing your feedback as we strive for a storm water program that is effective, efficient and meaningful to the citizens of Round Rock.
Beginning in September 2011, the City of Round Rock is implementing a $58
million, 5-year plan to address the community’s most pressing transportation
needs. The program will be primarily funded through the existing half-cent Type
B sales tax revenue for economic development.
identified key problem areas, and presented a series of solutions to the Round
Rock City Council at its
August planning retreat. The City Council, after providing guidance on timing
and priorities, signed off on the program. The 5-year program is flexible, and
new projects will be added to it as work is completed and funds allow. It will
be updated annually.
The highest-priority problem areas identified are
below. Links take you to projects designed to address the problem:
- IH 35 corridor
deficiencies, most notably on-ramp and off-ramp locations
- North-south connections
west of IH 35. There are no significant crossings of Brushy Creek between
Chisholm Trail and Parmer Lane.
efficiency, in particular traffic signal timing and lack of dedicated right
- East-west routes west of
IH 35, especially where there are at-grade railroad crossings.
- Rehabilitation of major
arterial roads. Many of our existing arterial roads need significant
maintenance or reconstruction to improve safety, traffic flow and economic
While all of these problem areas are within the City’s jurisdiction to
address, we will need to partner with the Texas Department of Transportation on some of the proposed
solutions. We anticipate that costs will be shared by other agencies on some
Transportation staff analyzed and ranked problem areas and proposed solutions
that are both technically sound and affordable, i.e., within the projected
revenue stream of the half-cent Type B sales tax. Type B denotes the state law that stipulates the uses for this sales tax, which is
for the promotion of economic development.
Round Rock voters in 1997 approved the half-cent sales tax and limited its
use to major road and transportation projects, i.e., those that impacted
economic development. Since that time, the City has leveraged the $115 million
of Type B revenue into $376 million worth of projects by partnering with the
Texas Department of Transportation, Williamson County and private
The 5-year program does not include $30 million of ongoing Type B sales tax
funded transportation projects, like a new north-south arterial east of IH 35
(Kenney Fort Boulevard) and the widening of Chisholm Trail Road north of FM
3406. Even with the new 5-year program and the existing projects, the City
anticipates maintaining an $8-10 million fund balance for the Type B sales tax
Your thoughts or questions about the program are welcome.
The Round Rock City Council will consider a $137 million fiscal 2012 budget (PDF) that includes renewed funding for street maintenance, balanced at the effective tax rate, and no water/wastewater utility rate increases.
City Manager Steve Norwood presented copies of the proposed budget to the City Council on Monday, Aug. 1. The City Council will discuss the budget in detail at its Aug. 16-17 retreat, and will vote on the budget and property tax rate at its Sept. 8 and Sept. 22 meetings.
The proposed general fund budget is 2.4 percent higher than the current budget. For the past two years, the general fund budget has decreased by a total of nearly 6 percent.
The budget projects sales tax revenue to increase to $43 million, 6.2 percent more than was budgeted in the current fiscal year.
“This budget continues a very conservative approach to revenue projections,” Norwood said. “We are definitely seeing improvement in our local economy, but we want to ensure we are living within our means and this budget reflects that approach.”
The effective tax rate of 42.321 cents per $100 of valuation provides the same amount of revenue collected last year from properties on the tax roll last year. Because overall property values have decreased slightly, the effective rate is slighter higher than last year’s tax rate. An individual property owner’s payment will vary compared to last year based on the change in the appraised value of their home.
The budget includes $1.2 million for street maintenance. New funding for street maintenance had been put on hold for two years due to budget constraints. The funds for street maintenance scheduled to begin later this month were carried over from previous budgets.
“Without question the No. 1 issue I have heard from council and residents is the need to improve our maintenance program as it relates to residential streets,” Norwood said. “This budget has a significant amount of additional dollars dedicated solely to improving the condition of our neighborhood streets.”
For the second consecutive year, there are no proposed increases to retail water and wastewater rates. There is also no increase in drainage utility rates.
The budget includes funds to bring various employee salaries up to market levels. City employees have not had salary increases since April 2009.
“This budget continues to place a priority on our public safety and public service employees, and we have a limited amount of funding to ensure many of our job classes are paid competitively,” Norwood said. “It’s not huge, but it does address the most pressing areas.”
After a year reviewing over 1,100 community responses to the Google Fiber for Communities project, Google has chosen to deploy its ultra high-speed network in Kansas City, Kansas.
Again, we want to thank all 1,194 citizens who responded to our survey and the
businesses and institutions who wrote letters of support for the City of Round Rock's application for the project.
You can find
our archived response, including survey results and other supporting
materials, at roundrocktexas.gov/google.
A new drainage utility fee goes into effect with March utility bills. The fee is part of the City’s long-term effort to reduce its reliance on sales tax revenue and was approved by the City Council in November.
All single family residences will pay a flat fee of $2.75 per month. The fee for commercial, industrial and multi-family properties is calculated based on their amount of improved area – buildings, parking lots, driveways, etc. So if a commercial property has 10 times the improved area as compared to an average home, its fee would be $27.50 per month.
The City’s stormwater drainage program is designed to protect life and property from flood damage and keep runoff from polluting creeks and other waterways. The program had been paid for through general fund revenues like sales taxes and property taxes.
The City Council has been studying the concept for about a year. As part of its early budget deliberations in February 2010, as the economic downturn continued, the City Council asked staff to evaluate the appropriateness of a Drainage Utility.
More than 60 cities in Texas have created drainage utilities to ensure consistent funding for regulatory compliance, environmental preservation and protection of life and property from flood damage. A Drainage Utility also aligns with our citizens’ preference for user fee based program funding, where costs are paid for by those who use and benefit the most from the service.
Because Round Rock is one of the most sales tax dependent cities in Texas, the City Council in recent years has been systematically reducing our reliance on that revenue source for daily operations. For example, the City has paid cash for some one-time capital expenses to reduce our debt burden. Last year, the City Council decided the time had come to change how we fund the stormwater system due to declining sales tax revenues and increasing demands for other services funded by general revenues, such as police and fire protection.
Information on the Drainage Utility is available at roundrocktexas.gov/stormwater.
Earlier this year, the City of Round Rock and 1,099 other communities submitted applications to help Google test an ultra-high speed broadband network in our community as part of the Google Fiber for Communities project.
Google was anticipating announcing the selected community or communities by the end of 2010, but a post on the Official Google Blog has announced that the decision has been pushed back until early 2011 due to overwhelming response.
Again, want to thank all 1,194 citizens who responded to our survey and the businesses and institutions who wrote letters of support. You can find our entire response, including survey results and other supporting materials, at roundrocktexas.gov/google.
The Round Rock City Council has called for a Nov. 2 election to ask voters if they are willing to expand the allowable uses of the City’s economic development sales tax.
Approved by voters in 1997, the half-cent sales tax is restricted to transportation projects that promote economic development. The election would determine whether the City can expand the purposes of that half-cent sales tax to all uses allowed by state law.
If approved, the ballot measure would not impose a new tax or raise the existing sales tax rate.
“We are asking voters to provide the City with more flexibility in how to use the revenue from the existing economic development half cent sales tax,” Mayor Alan McGraw said. “In Texas alone, we are competing for jobs with nearly 600 cities that do not have any similar restrictions on the use of their economic development sales tax.”
Texas Local Government Code Chapters 501 and 505 is the section of Texas law that contains the rules governing the use of the “Type B” economic development sales tax, including eligible uses of tax revenues.
Among the allowable uses of the “Type B” sales tax are: projects for the promotion of professional and amateur athletics and sports including stadiums, ball parks, auditoriums, projects related to entertainment, convention, tourist, and exhibition facilities, amphitheaters, concert halls, and public parks, park facilities and events, open space improvements, military facilities, including closed or realigned military bases, primary job training facilities for use by institutions of higher education, research and development facilities, regional or national corporate headquarters facilities, museums and related stores, restaurant, concession, and automobile parking facilities, related area transportation facilities, and related roads, streets, and water and sewer facilities, recycling facilities, and projects to promote new or expanded business enterprises that create or retain primary jobs, and public safety facilities, streets and roads, drainage, and related improvements, demolition of existing structures, development and expansion of affordable housing, and targeted infrastructure and any other improvements, expenditures, or facilities that are related to any of the above projects.
Here is the ballot language:
EXPAND THE PURPOSES OF THE EXISTING TYPE B SALES AND USE TAX FOR THOSE AUTHORIZED PROJECTS AS DESCRIBED IN CHAPTERS 501 AND 505, TEXAS LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE.
Voters will vote “For” or “Against.”
The Round Rock City Council voted unanimously Thursday, Aug. 26, to implement a new garbage and recycling program beginning in January 2011. Under the new program, Round Rock Refuse will provide residents with two 96-gallon containers, one for garbage and one for recycling. Garbage will be collected once per week and recycling collected every other week.
Currently, garbage is picked up twice weekly, and customers provide their own containers. Curbside recycling pickup is offered on a subscription basis.
The City has been reviewing this program change for some time, and we appreciate the many comments received on the last post on this topic.
This new program will increase residential customers’ monthly rate to $16.91. The City’s current pre-tax garbage collection rate is $13.95 per month. Customers who have added curbside recycling pickup pay an additional $4 per month. Subscription service will be eliminated once the new program is in place.
Diverting waste from landfills has become a bottom line issue as well as an environmental one. Landfill costs will increase 5 percent a year for the next three years; this is on top of a doubling of costs in 2009. In addition to reducing the amount of unnecessary material going into landfills, the new program will save significant wear and tear on City streets as garbage trucks will make fewer trips.
The Round Rock City Council will consider a fiscal 2011 General Fund budget that is almost $3 million less than the current budget, but adds police officers, a new transit program and establishes a parks maintenance fund.
Round Rock City Manager Jim Nuse submitted his budget proposal (pdf) to the City Council on Monday, Aug. 2. The proposed tax rate for the $81.1 million General Fund budget is 41 cents per $100 of valuation, which is one cent below the Effective Tax Rate.
The Effective Tax Rate provides the same amount of revenue collected from properties on the tax roll last year. This state-mandated rate calculation requires taxing entities to account for changes in the value of existing properties. This rate calculation, however, does not include new properties. Under the proposed rate, the owner of an average value home ($175,980) would pay $725.53. Under the Effective Tax Rate, they would pay $743.13.
More than $1 million in savings has been achieved by eliminating 24 budgeted positions through a public works reorganization, as well as implementing process efficiencies. The budget plan also proposes refinancing and early payment of portions of the City’s outstanding debt.
“Over the past two years, our employees accepted the challenge of cutting costs and working more efficiently and that hard work has paid off,” City Manager Jim Nuse said. “I’m especially proud of the reorganization of the public works departments, which has consolidated functions from three departments into two.”
The proposed budget also accomplishes a critical goal of the City’s financial management policy – reducing reliance on Dell sales tax revenue to fund daily operations. Currently, Dell sales tax revenue comprises 40 percent of the overall sales tax revenue. Next year, it will be 36 percent.
“While sales tax revenue has rebounded somewhat this fiscal year, we must continue to systematically reduce our reliance on it to fund day-to-day expenses to maintain our long-term fiscal sustainability,” Nuse said. “This budget proposal takes another step toward accomplishing that key City Council goal.”
The City’s target is to systematically reduce its reliance on Dell to 20 percent of overall sales tax revenue for operations by 2017.
The budget includes four new police officer positions and $300,000 for a new Peak Hour Express Bus and Reverse Commute program. It also earmarks $750,000 to establish a fund for parks capital maintenance and replacement.
Tax rate-stormwater fee impact
The proposed tax rate is one cent below the Effective Tax Rate to reflect the transfer of the stormwater drainage costs out of the General Fund into a new utility. That revenue will now be collected through a new fee on monthly utility bills. We anticipate implementing the new fee in spring 2011. Fees will be based on a property’s impact to the drainage system, which would more appropriately and fairly allocate the costs for storm water services while providing vital funding stability.
If the City Council adopted the Effective Tax Rate of 42 cents per $100 of valuation, the owner of an average value home would pay $17.60 more than the proposed 41 cent tax rate. We estimate a homeowner will pay about $18 next fiscal year through the new drainage utility fee.
Retail water and wastewater rates are unchanged for fiscal 2011.
Overall FY 2011 proposed budget
|Debt Service Fund
|Water/Wastewater Utility Fund
|Drainage Utility Fund
The Round Rock Police Association submitted a petition to the City on June 9 requesting recognition of the Association as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for all the police officers of the City of Round Rock.
The petition was discussed at the June 24 City Council meeting, and included an overview of the “Meet and Confer” law (PDF) by City Manager Jim Nuse, remarks by RRPA President John Rowe and a question-and-answer session with the City Council.
The City Council has three options for responding to the petition:
Grant recognition of the association as requested in the petition by a majority vote of the Council
Defer granting recognition of the association and order an election by the voters in the City limits
Order a certification election to determine whether the association represents a majority of the affected police officers.
The City Council is scheduled to act on the petition at its July 8 meeting.
Questions regarding costs, both long term and short term, have pushed back City Council consideration of universal curbside recycling service in Round Rock.
Initially, the Council was to consider adopting a new residential solid waste disposal program in April, to go into effect on Oct. 1. Since then, there have been a couple of significant developments crop up as we work with our solid waste disposal provider, Round Rock Refuse.
Utilities Director Michael Thane made a presentation at the April 22 City Council meeting (Item 6D1 on the agenda).
Currently, most recyclables in our area are driven to San Antonio because there are no single-stream processing facilities in Central Texas. A facility was planned to be built in Austin, but that project is not proceeding as scheduled, so Round Rock Refuse is looking into the possibility of building its own recycling facility in Williamson County.
Diverting waste from landfills is becoming a bottom line issue as well as an environmental one. Landfill costs will increase 5 percent a year for the next three years; this is on top of a doubling of costs in 2009. So an effective recycling program is critical to managing long-term solid waste disposal costs for our citizens.
The short-term cost issue regards containers. The City may be able to purchase new, standardized containers for both garbage and recyclables for a slightly lower cost than Round Rock Refuse. We are still working through the pros and cons of the City purchasing and owning the containers versus Round Rock Refuse doing so.
Giving Round Rock Refuse time to develop plans for a single-stream facility and sorting through the container ownership issue means a new program likely won’t be in place until spring 2011.
“Because of increasing problems with landfill space and costs, the Council has a responsibility to address this issue now,” Mayor Alan McGraw said. “But we need to get the details right, and at the right price for our customers.”
The proposal initially considered by the City Council, which would replace the current residential trash pickup program, would feature:
Once a week garbage pickup, with an 96-gallon trash container provided
Every other week recycling pickup, with a 96-gallon recycling container provided
Cost of the service was estimated to be approximately $16.71 per month
Currently, residents receive twice-weekly garbage pickup for $13.95 per month (no container provided) and can access drop-off recycling services at the City’s Recycling Center on Deepwood Drive. Participants in the current subscription recycling program offered by Round Rock Refuse pay $4 a month and are provided with an 18-gallon container.
An effective solid waste program will reduce the amount of unnecessary material going into landfills, and save significant wear and tear on City streets as garbage trucks will make fewer trips.
The City Council discussed curbside recycling options at its retreat in February. The once a week garbage pickup and every other week recycling, with containers provided, is the same as recently implemented programs in Cedar Park and Pflugerville.
The primary concerns we have heard from citizens regarding the proposal are:
Increasing the base cost of trash pickup while decreasing the number of times trash is picked up per week
Losing the choice whether to recycle
Storing two 96-gallon containers in their garages will be difficult
Other options considered by the City Council are: weekly garbage and weekly recycling pickup with containers provided ($17.50 per month); weekly garbage and every other week recycling without a trash container provided and a 96-gallon recycling container provided ($15.34 per month); weekly garbage and weekly recycling without a trash container provided and a 60-gallon recycling container provided ($15.78 per month).
In the City’s 2008 customer service survey, we asked respondents a series of questions on curbside recycling. The highest level of agreement was to the question, “What’s most important is that the city ensures the best service at the best price,” with 89 percent agreeing, and 8 percent disagreeing.
The survey also asked respondents if they supported the City implementing a curbside recycling program for all city residents and 81 percent said they did; 71 percent agreed that what’s important is keeping service the way it is.
For those residents who want to set out more than the 96-gallon garbage container, Round Rock Refuse General Manager Ralph Rocco told the City Council in February that additional items/trash will be picked up as well.
“If they set it out on the curb, we’ll pick it up,” Rocco told the City Council. “For the vast majority of people, the 96-gallon container should be enough, but we will pick up additional containers if folks set them out. If you haven’t been recycling, you’ll be surprised at how much it will reduce the waste going into your regular trash.”
The City conducted a pilot program of the service last year, and 39 of the 43 participants said the 96-gallon container was sufficient for weekly garbage disposal needs. Forty-one of the 43 participants said they would like to see the service implemented full-time.
Participants in the pilot program included City Councilmembers, neighborhood association leaders, interested citizens and City staff members.
Rocco said if people do not want to participate in the curbside recycling service, Round Rock Refuse will simply pick up the recycling containers. However, their monthly charge will remain the same.
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