Council adopts FY2021 budget that lowers property tax rate, focuses on maintaining services

The Georgetown City Council adopted the Fiscal Year 2021 budget on Sept. 22. The adopted FY2021 budget totals $396 million and decreases the City’s property tax rate by $0.002, making it the lowest of all cities in the Austin area with a population greater than 20,000. As a result of the lower tax rate and a decline in the average taxable value of homestead property, the average Georgetown homeowner is expected to pay lower property taxes next year.

“Next year’s budget truly reflects the priorities of this community,” Mayor Dale Ross said. “The lower tax rate, competitive employee compensation, and continued commitment to public safety ensure we not only will meet the needs of today, but also lay a solid groundwork for tomorrow. Even in these most challenging times, the City is performing well financially and will be able to maintain Georgetown’s spot as the best place to live, work, play, and retire on planet earth.”

The adopted budget did not change from the proposed budget, which is provided online at finance.georgetown.org. The adopted budget book will be available this fall.

The FY2021 budget incorporates feedback received from multiple Council discussions, as well as from a public engagement survey in June. Of the more than 650 residents who took the survey, the majority:

  • Did not support changes to property taxes or user fees.
  • Rated the value of City services and the City’s efforts to address the impacts of growth as “Good.”
  • Supported increased funding to manage traffic and infrastructure/roads.

The overall focus of the FY2021 budget is to preserve and maintain City services, in response both to continued growth and uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. It addresses these priorities through utility and transportation infrastructure development, public safety improvements, long-range planning initiatives, economic development achievements, and sustaining City service levels. This includes opening two fire stations in the next fiscal year.

The budget takes a conservative outlook for the next fiscal year, with the overall budget coming in 10 percent lower than the adopted FY2020 budget. The General Fund, which pays for several, critical services such as public safety, streets, library services, and parks and recreation, will increase by 3.7 percent – lower than the city’s population growth of 7.2 percent.

Other highlights in the adopted budget include the following:

  • 5 new positions, including staff for Fire Station No. 7 and two police officers
  • 14 frozen positions, for at least part of the year
  • $1 million in cuts to department budgets, including less funding for training, travel, and supplies
  • Competitive employee compensation and benefits, including market and merit raises for non-civil service employees, and market increases and annual step for public safety employees
  • $77.4 million in capital improvement projects, including investments in transportation, water and wastewater, electric, and the public safety complex.
  • Council discretionary funds for one-time uses, including small area plan development for the Track Ridge Grasshopper and San Jose neighborhoods
  • Initiating design for improvements to D.B. Wood Road, the last, large project from the 2015 bond.
  • Increased sanitation rates to help pay for increased costs with Texas Disposal Systems, reconstruction of the transfer station, and improvements to the household hazardous waste program

Additionally, the City is working with a contractor to study the costs to provide water and wastewater service and will likely recommend rate increases as a result.

For more information, visit finance.georgetown.org.

Vote for the Best of Georgetown, TX

Voting for the annual Best of Georgetown, TX contest is now underway.

Now is your chance to tell us your favorite Georgetown businesses and organizations. What is the best boutique in Georgetown? Who gives the best hair cut? Where is the best live entertainment? What about the best bed and breakfast?

Tell us before voting ends on Sept. 30 at 11:59 p.m.

For more information on the Best of Georgetown, TX contest, please visit Bestof.Georgetown.org.

The list of winners will be posted Oct. 30 at Bestof.Georgetown.org.

Winning businesses receive window decals as well as certificates showing their award and category. In addition, the business names will be listed on the 2020 winners’ flyer at the Visitors Center and on the Bestof.Georgetown.org website for one year. Winners will have access to the Best of Georgetown 2020 logo for use in their websites and printed material.

The annual Best of Georgetown, TX contest is sponsored by the City of Georgetown Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Free COVID-19 testing in Georgetown Sept. 12-15

Williamson County Office of Emergency Management in partnership with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and in coordination with the City of Georgetown will be hosting free COVID-19 testing September 12-15.

Testing will be conducted at the Georgetown Community Center located at 445 E. Morrow Street in San Gabriel Park. It will begin at 9 a.m. and it will close by 1 p.m. or until supplies last.

This is a walk-up site that will not require an appointment prior to being tested.

People interested in getting tested will be asked to park and line up for their turn. It is important to note that this is a cheek swab test, so people cannot eat, drink, or use tobacco products 20 minutes prior to the test. Please avoid bringing pets, unless it is a service animal.

Residents should bring a cell phone for on-site registration. Also, please be aware that due to demand there may be a wait time. If it is a hot day,  bringing a hat or umbrella for shade is encouraged.

For details about the testing, go here.

Breakfast Bites: PoppyStrong in a Pandemic

The Breakfast Bites meeting Sept. 17 will feature Georgetown City Manager David Morgan and Economic Development Director Michaela Dollar presenting on “PoppyStrong in a Pandemic: How the City of Georgetown is staying resilient in a crisis.” The informal meeting opens at 8:15 a.m. in the City Council Chambers at the Council & Court building, 510 W. Ninth St. The presentation will start at 8:30 a.m. and will include both an in-person and virtual attendee option. Limited seating is available to attend in person, and participants must register in advance.

The presentation will cover updates on city operations, projects, developments, and planning in a pandemic.

At the Sept. 17 meeting, there will also be updates from City staff on:

  • Arts and culture
  • Public Library
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau

Also, learn about updates from downtown partner organizations and find out about new businesses in the downtown district that have opened or are under construction.

Breakfast Bites is a quarterly meeting of the Georgetown Main Street Program. If you plan to attend, please RSVP by 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 14, online at www.eventbrite.com/o/georgetown-main-street-14992737626.

I-35 nighttime lane closures Sept. 7-10

Lane closures on I-35 will be in effect just north of Williams Drive in the overnight hours Sept. 7-10, weather permitting. The closure is to allow construction work on the center support structure for the Northwest Boulevard bridge project.

Closure of one northbound main lane and two southbound main lanes on I-35 will be in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting each evening from Sept. 7-10.

The Northwest Boulevard bridge will be a new east-west connection over the interstate and an alternative to Williams Drive. The project connects Rivery Boulevard to the west and FM 971 to the east and is scheduled to be complete in early 2021.

Labor Day closings on Monday, Sept. 7

City of Georgetown offices and facilities will be closed on Monday, Sept. 7, for the Labor Day holiday. This includes these locations:

  • Airport Terminal, 500 Terminal Drive
  • Animal Shelter, 110 W.L. Walden Drive
  • City Hall, 808 Martin Luther King Jr. St.
  • Economic Development, 808 Martin Luther King Jr. St.
  • Municipal Complex, 300-1 Industrial Ave.
  • Municipal Court, 510 W. Ninth St.
  • Parks and Recreation Administration, 1101 N. College St.
  • Planning Department, 406 W. Eighth St.
  • Public Library, 402 W. Eighth St.
  • Public Safety Operations and Training Center lobby,
    3500 D.B. Wood Road
  • Recreation Center, 1003 N. Austin Ave.
  • Tennis Center, 400 Serenada Drive

The Visitors Center, 103 W. Seventh St., will be open 1-5 p.m.

Garey Park, 6450 RM 2243, will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Swimming Pools and Aquatics

The Williams Drive pool at 3201 Williams Drive will be open Sat., Sept. 5, through Monday, Sept. 7. The hours will be 1 to 6:30 p.m. each of those days. The pool will be cleared for 30 minutes for cleaning every hour and a half. Find information at parks.georgetown.org/williams-drive-pool. Other outdoor seasonal pools have closed for the summer season.

The splash pads at San Jose Park, 1707 San Jose St., Rabbit Hill Park, 1109 Blue Ridge Drive, and at the Art Center, 816 S. Main St., will remain open through the month of September. The splash pad at Garey Park, 6450 RM 2243, will be open through October, weather permitting.

GoGeo bus service

There will be no service Monday, Sept. 7.

Recycling and solid waste

There will be regular recycling and solid waste collection for City of Georgetown customers on Monday, Sept. 7. Please place carts at the curb by 7 a.m. on your scheduled pickup day. For questions, call Texas Disposal Systems at (512) 930-1715.

The Collection Station at 250 W.L. Walden Drive will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 7.

Three mosquito traps test positive for West Nile Virus

Truck-mounted spraying planned for Aug. 28-30

Three mosquito trap samples collected in Georgetown this week have tested positive for West Nile virus. The trap locations include two in Sun City on Yellow Rose Trail and at Legacy Hills Park and one in Georgetown Village at Creekside Park. This is the third West Nile virus-positive sample for the trap on Yellow Rose Trail and the second positive test for the trap located at Creekside Park.

The positive sample results were received by the Williamson County and Cities Health District yesterday afternoon. No other samples were found to be positive from routine trapping this week as part of the WCCHD Integrated Vector Management program.

West Nile Virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the United States. In 2020, there have been 11 mosquito trap pools that returned positive for West Nile Virus in Williamson County.

“The most important way to prevent West Nile Virus is to reduce the number of mosquitoes. WCCHD strongly encourages everyone to remain vigilant about protecting themselves from mosquito bites and preventing mosquito breeding on their property by using an EPA-approved repellent every time they are outdoors, or dressing in long sleeves and pants, draining standing water, even in the smallest amount, treating or changing water in bird feeders or fountains weekly,” said Jason Fritz, WCCHD Integrated Vector Management Program lead.

The City is following the Health District’s best practices for Integrated Mosquito Management which, at this time, calls for truck-mounted spraying, along with enhanced monitoring and testing and increased public outreach and education. Enhanced mosquito control efforts will also continue with the treatment of standing water with larvicide.

The City is implementing insecticide spraying in the vicinity of the positive samples for the next three nights Aug. 28-30. A City vehicle will use a pyrethrin-based insecticide along the street right-of-way and in public parks, weather permitting. Pyrethrin is a chemical that can be found in chrysanthemums.

A map is included showing the areas where application of the insecticide is planned. The use of the insecticide will reduce the adult mosquito population in that area. Spraying will be done if the wind speed is less than 10 mph.

Although the mosquito control product poses no significant health risk, if possible, people and pets may want to stay indoors during spraying.

The City and the Health District are encouraging everyone to be especially vigilant about protecting themselves from mosquito bites when outdoors, and preventing mosquito breeding on their personal property.

While many people who become infected with West Nile Virus have no symptoms, the symptoms of infection may include fever, headache, and body aches, a skin rash on the trunk of the body, and swollen lymph nodes. Those age 50 and older and/or with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for severe symptoms, which may include stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, vision loss, paralysis, and in rare cases, death.

Mosquitoes are present in Central Texas year-round, but the population is largest and most active from May through November. During this period, WCCHD monitors the mosquito population and tests for mosquito-borne viruses.

What you can do

Eliminating places where mosquitoes can breed and reducing the chances of mosquito bites are the most effective lines of defense against exposure to West Nile Virus. As part of its Fight the Bite campaign the Health District recommends the 3 Ds of mosquito safety:

  • Drain standing water in flowerpots, pet dishes, or clogged gutters so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed and treat water that can’t be drained,
  • Defend by using an EPA-approved insect repellent, and
  • Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.

For more information, go to the WCCHD website at www.wcchd.org or visit the Texas Department of State Health Services West Nile website at txwestnile.org.

Expanded outdoor seating, retail service areas coming to downtown

City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance during its Aug. 25 meeting to allow for the temporary expansion of outdoor seating and retail service areas within City right of way and parking spaces in downtown.

This program will provide residents and visitors with opportunities to dine and shop outdoors and give a needed economic boost to downtown businesses. While the Governor’s Orders have been necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, the restrictions on business activity have created economic hardships for many Georgetown small business owners.

Downtown business owners who apply for the program and are approved can use portions of the sidewalks and streets in front of their storefronts during specified days and times for restaurant dining and the display of retail goods. The new initiative is designed to help facilitate the physical distancing of patrons to comply with the current health orders and draw people to downtown to support establishments by shopping and eating locally.

For the upcoming Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-6, residents and visitors will have an opportunity to shop at sidewalk sales and dine downtown during the kick-off for extended outdoor seating and retail service areas. Traffic barriers will be installed in the parking spaces beginning on Friday, Sept. 4, and will remain up through Sunday, Sept. 6.

Signage indicating alternative parking spaces will be in place and parking areas on one side of each street will remain open. The downtown parking lots are available for all-day free parking as well. Supporting local businesses safely is critical at this time.

“This program will give businesses the opportunity to bring a higher level of comfort for our guests,” Roots owner Jeana Aliani said. “With our current health conditions, patrons feel more at ease dining outdoors versus indoors. Our business has suffered a tremendous loss in sales this year. … We appreciate the approval of the outdoor dining to help with a stronger and much needed recovery.”

The City asks participants to maintain 6 feet physical distancing, use hand sanitizer and/or wash hands, and wear a mask unless seated for food or beverage consumption.

I-35 nighttime lane closures Aug. 16-19

Lane closures on I-35 will be in effect just north of Williams Drive in the overnight hours Aug. 16-19, weather permitting. The closure is for the Northwest Boulevard bridge project.

Closure of one northbound main lane and two southbound main lanes on I-35 will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting each evening from Aug.16-19.

The Northwest Boulevard bridge will be a new east-west connection over the interstate and an alternative to Williams Drive. The project connects Rivery Boulevard to the west and FM 971 to the east and is scheduled to be complete in early 2021.