By Rachel Madison
Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long spoke about everything from upcoming road and park projects to the county’s unprecedented population growth during the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce’s November Lunch and Learn event Thursday.
Dozens of business owners listened as Long spoke briefly about the history of Williamson County before addressing the county’s extraordinary in-migration, which is expected to be well over 585,000 people by the end of 2018.
“Almost 50 percent of people who are moving into the county are coming from other places,” Long said. “Williamson County is growing so fast because people are moving here faster than natural birth. In 2015, almost 80 percent of our growth was from people moving into the county. By about 2050, it’s estimated that Williamson County and Travis County will be at about the same population.”
Long also touched on residential and commercial real estate within Williamson County.
Currently, the average home price in Williamson County is around $271,000, she said, adding that the need for housing is “coming at us like a freight train.”
“That creates a continual challenge for workforce housing, meaning those folks who are not at that median wage,” she said. “That’s something that as local leaders we have to pay attention to and address.”
Long also mentioned the growth of market value overall in the county. In 2012, the total value of property was $44 billion. In 2015, it was $58.5 billion. As of Jan. 1, 2017, it sat at $72 billion.
“Of that $72 billion, about $41 billion is residential value,” she said. “We are still heavily residential oriented. If you break that down in residential, multifamily is at almost $5 billion and growing rapidly. Of that $72 billion, our commercial value is about $10 billion. We would all like to see more of a balance there, because that means more jobs here, which means fewer of us have to drive to Austin to go to work.”
Long discussed several large commercial projects that have either recently been completed or are expected to begin soon across the county.
“You all know what’s happening in Liberty Hill, so I wanted to highlight what’s happening in other parts of the county,” she said.
These projects include a $350 million, 1,000 room hotel and convention center in Round Rock by Kalahari Resorts, The Parke shopping center in Cedar Park, St. David’s Hospital in Leander, and the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center in Georgetown.
Long also shared some highlights from the recently adopted county budget for fiscal year 2018, one of which was that Williamson County has retained its AAA bond rating, which means the county’s budget is considered well managed.
“Almost 80 percent of the budget comes from property taxes,” she said. “Our adopted budget is almost $330 million. Sixty percent of that is general fund, 10 percent is road and bridge fund, and 30 percent is paying off debt service. Almost 50 percent of our [general fund] is for public safety—the constables and sheriff’s department. A huge part of Liberty Hill folks who aren’t in the incorporated city get their police protection from the sheriff’s department.”
Long touched on several projects that will begin construction in the Liberty Hill area in 2018, such as the expansion of the intersection at County Road 200 and State Highway 29 and the dedicated turn lane into River Ranch Park. She also mentioned the progress being made to that park, which borders Liberty Hill and Leander.
“That will be a phenomenally cool park at 1,000 acres,” she said. “For this fiscal year, we’re working on phase 1, which is finishing up landscape design. Eventually, there will be trails for people and horses, RV and primitive camping, an interpretive center and a park host program. We’re hoping to have phase 1 completed by fall 2018.”