Round Rock bond election scheduled for November

City council puts forward proposals on parks, safety and libraries worth $123.6 million

The City of Round Rock maintains one of the lowest property tax rates in Central Texas. Come November, however, voters will face the decision of whether voluntarily raising tax rates is worth improvements to the city's public safety, parks and library infrastructure.

On Aug. 22, Round Rock City Council unanimously approved calling a Nov. 5 election for four separate bond proposals totaling $123.6 million. The November election will represent the first city bond proposal since 2001, when residents approved $89.9 million in bonds to fund public works, facilities and public safety improvements.

"When we did the one in 2001, we were sitting around [a population of] 60,000 people, and here were are sitting at over 100,000 [residents]," Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw said. "I think there is obviously a lot of growth factors that are driving this."

Beginning in May, a 13-member General Bond Advisory Committee composed of city residents began meeting to consider projects for the bonds. The committee forwarded its recommendations to City Council in July. Since then, the council members have held a series of discussions on what projects to include, which to eliminate, and how much to ask voters to approve in funding.

Included in the proposals are $16.5 million for up to three new fire stations; $56.5 million for improvements to the city's parks, trails, pools and recreational facilities; $23.2 million for the construction of new library facilities; and $27.4 million to build a new police and fire department staff training facility.

Round Rock City Manager Steve Norwood said the outcome of bond elections often depends on the current state of the economy and how controversial the bonds are.

"It also depends on community expectations and what the projects are," Norwood said. "Really, [the proposed funding] is fire stations, it's training, it's a library and parks. It's not something like a high-speed rail [line], where maybe the public is divided on it."

If the bonds are approved by voters, the next step will be deciding when and how much of the bonds to issue.

"The thought is to do as much of the brick-and-mortar things we can first to take advantage of the construction market and the interest on the bonds being much lower," Norwood said.

The city estimates the bonds would raise property taxes for the average city homeowner by $126–$132, in addition to approximately $96 in operations costs.

"That is why these propositions go to the voters, because the voters get to help determine the level of quality of life they will get to experience," McGraw said.