“The Story of Hutto” budget series has now entered its second half. As The Story comes into focus, let’s turn the page to the City’s third pillar: Grow Responsibly and Sustainably. Two key areas of the budget merge to form this pillar: City staffing, and infrastructure improvements. With Hutto and the region growing quickly, City leaders have proposed a conservative budget to appropriately support this growth.
Growing Team Hutto
A major part of growing the City at a responsible and sustainable rate is ensuring the City has the right staff available to carry out projects, programs and services. As we shared with you in Chapter One (Collaborate for Operational Excellence and Efficiency), the City took a hard look at determining which positions to fund this coming year so the projects shown below and in The Story's other chapters can be completed on time and within budget. “Team Hutto” – what some affectionately call City staff – is being built gradually and strategically to carry this vision forward.
One of these key positions is a second staff member dedicated to the Hutto Economic Development Corporation (EDC). The focus of the Hutto EDC is to advance growth and opportunity in Hutto and the region. Thanks both to local strategic marketing and regional prosperity, Hutto is in a prime position to attract semiconductor manufacturing and research and development; destination retail and entertainment; advanced manufacturing; and applied-technology businesses. By adding a second full-time position, the EDC will take its work to the next level, bringing the right projects to Hutto at the right time for our economy.
Water, roadways, and trains – oh my!
Follow the hippo-lined road to take a look now at the City’s infrastructure plans– the water, wastewater and transportation systems used on a daily basis by an ever-growing number of residents and workers in and around Hutto. While some projects in this chapter are overdue, be assured the City is determined to drive them to completion.
Hutto Chief Financial Officer Angie Rios and Engineering Director Wade Benton presented on July 21 a proposed list of the most urgently needed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) projects. The video presentation can be viewed at HuttoTX.gov.
Funding authority for most of the proposed roadway improvements was secured through a 2018 bond approved by Hutto voters. The budget now under consideration for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) spells out how bond funds could be spent, year-by-year. It also helps put plans into action by allocating the necessary personnel and materials to complete the much anticipated work.
FM 1660 is a primary north-south artery in Hutto. As shown on the City’s CIP webpage, there is a trilogy of projects well in the works for FM 1660—two of which are set for completion in 2023 through the new budget:
- First on the scene is the FM 1660 and Limmer Loop intersection. In the 2018 bond package, just over $7 million was allocated for additional lanes and sidewalks to be added to this intersection. The bulk of those funds, about $5 million, slated to be spent in FY 2023. Engineering (design) for the intersection has already been completed. The bidding process is expected to begin this fall, with construction set to start by the end of 2022 and finish in summer or fall of 2023.
- The next character is the FM 1660 North and US 79 intersection. This CIP project received nearly $1 million in the 2018 bond package, most of which will be spent in FY23. This will expand the road to add a dedicated right turn lane on both FM 1660 southbound and US 79 westbound, reducing delays and improving safety. Design is done, with bidding and construction set to begin this fall and construction finished in spring or summer 2023.
- The third dragon set to be slayed in the FM 1660 trilogy is the intersection of FM 1660 South and US 79. Around $3.7 million was approved for this project in the 2018 bond package. However only a small amount will be spent this past year, due to the ongoing and complex coordination needed between the Federal Railroad Administration, Union Pacific rail, the Texas Dept. of Transportation, and the City of Hutto. Thankfully design is more than half-way done and expected to be complete by this time next year, so that construction can begin in 2024 and finally finish in 2025.
We know what you’re probably thinking … but what about all of the other roads in Hutto sorely needing help? Good news! On Aug. 18, the City Council voted to issue $44 million in general obligation bonds for road and drainage projects. The Council is now considering exactly which road and drainage projects to fund in the next couple of years, as part of the budget adoption process. While staff has made recommendations, important discussions continue to take place at public meetings to finalize the capital plan.
In addition, the proposed budget includes about $3 million out of the City’s general fund (not debt) for other capital projects, including funding for Lakeside Estates sidewalks, County Road 199 repairs, and repairs to Fritz Bridge.
This story has another welcome plot development, with the City recently starting a Pavement Study objectively analyzing all City-maintained roads and sidewalks. This project will determine which sections need the most improvement and in what order, providing the City Council with valuable data for decision making. The proposed budget includes funds to begin making the first phase of these improvements in 2023.
Keeping things flowing smoothly
Water and wastewater have been big topics of discussion in recent years, including this summer during the historic drought plaguing Central Texas. The City is committed to implementing critical improvements for water and wastewater systems. These urgently needed enhancements would, for example, give the City better access to the available water by increasing access to existing water sources and adding volume to this supply. This would hold the City for a few years while additional plans and partnerships are actively developed.
Much of this plan was already in progress but would be expedited to include improvements to and/or construction of pipes, tanks, valves, pumps and other infrastructure to keep processes flowing smoothly. (In addition, master plans are being developed for water and wastewater longer-range needs.)
The Council recently voted to fund $53 million in water and wastewater system improvements through certificates of obligation, a form of borrowing that allows local governments in Texas the flexibility to finance critical projects quickly. Certificates of obligation are repaid with property taxes and other local revenue streams, sometimes generated by the projects themselves.
Don’t put away this budget book just yet! The next chapter is surely one of the most anticipated, and not just because it features the fourth and final City Pillar: Create the Highest Quality of Life for Hutto Taxpayers. It’s happens to be the chapter highlighting how Hutto will continue to gradually restore and enhance Library programs, sports leagues, special events and more! And in our epilogue, we’ll take a look at the City tax rate (which is not proposed to increase) and how it figures into this important body of text.
- During the Hutto City Council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 1, the City will host the first official public hearing on the proposed budget, and the first of two readings to eventually adopt the budget.
- Next, on Thursday, Sept. 8, there will be a special called meeting of the City Council specifically to consider the proposed tax rate.
- Finally, on Thursday, Sept. 15, there will be a second/final reading to adopt the budget, and a formal vote to adopt the tax rate.