Parks and recreation projects scheduled to begin immediately
The city of Round Rock is wasting little time putting to use the $123.6 million in bond funding approved by voters in November.
On Jan. 23, City Council voted unanimously to begin issuing more than $71 million worth of bonds to finance the first round of infrastructure improvements. The first priorities include upgrading the sports tournament fields at Old Settlers Park, building additions to the city's trail system, expanding the Rock 'N River Family Aquatic Center and construction of a new fire station.
Round Rock City Manager Steve Norwood said beginning the projects quickly was a pledge city staff made to the council and voters when the bonds were proposed.
"This is not something where we were going to wait and see and take a dozen years to get something done," he said. "The overall theme is: Let's get projects going that attract people to Round Rock and have a return on investment."
Norwood said the city has already begun issuing contracts for the various projects and expects to begin construction on several this year. He said work is scheduled to begin immediately at the Old Settlers Park sports fields, and that the Rock 'N River expansion—which includes enlarging the pool and adding features designed for older children and teens—should be completed by summer 2015.
Round Rock Finance Director Cheryl Delaney said the bonds were put on the market in February, and the city expects to receive the revenue from their sale in early March. The exact effect on homeowners' property tax rates will be determined this summer when the city begins planning its 2015 budget and calculates the annual cost of paying off its new debt. Delaney estimates the cost of paying off the new bonds will raise the city's property tax rates by 1.3 cents per $100 of valuation, or $24 annually for the average Round Rock home.
Delaney said the city decided to issue the majority share of the bonds as soon as possible to take advantage of low interest rates. She also said construction costs are likely to increase in the near future, so the longer the city waited to begin the projects, the more expensive they would become.
"The economy continues to improve—which we are very happy about—but that also affects costs. When the market gets better, costs go up," she said. "So we are just trying to take advantage of very favorable markets and the cost of construction."
Even after cashing in its first series of bonds, the city still has the authorization to issue more than $52 million in the future. Remaining projects approved by voters include the construction of a new main library, two additional fire stations, and completing a police and fire personnel training facility.
According to city staff, the February bond issuance will fund:
- Heritage Trail from Georgetown Street to the bathing beach ($17 million)
- Architecture, permitting, development and construction of a police and fire training facility ($16.3 million)
- Old Settlers Park facility improvements ($14.5 million)
- Rock 'N River Family Aquatic Center upgrades ($7 million)
- Land, design, engineering and construction for three fire station projects ($7 million)
- Various Parks and Recreation Department repair and maintenance projects ($4 million)
- Lake Creek Trail from Round Rock West Park to Centennial Plaza ($2 million)
- Brushy Creek Regional Trail from Rabb Park to Veterans Park ($1.9 million)
- Land, design and engineering for a new main library ($1.5 million)