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It is that time of year, where the summer comes to an end, vacations are over, and parents are looking forward to the kids heading back to school. As a community whose largest employer is the Hutto ISD school district and with over 7,000 students in the school district, it’s natural that a lot of the community centers on school activities.

The City Council and I wish the school district another fruitful and productive year. Thank you to the administration and teachers that are anxiously awaiting the students return. We appreciate all you do to not only educate our students, and the impact you have on the students and this community.

While the schools are gearing up for another busy and productive year, I would like to remind the community again that the city administration has had a very productive summer and we are looking forward to what lies ahead for Hutto and the community. There are a lot of things happening that will forever change the landscape and future of Hutto.

As a council, we are committed to providing economic opportunities that will provide Hutto with a bright future. We want to give parents and community members the opportunities to live, play, and work in Hutto.

If you haven’t heard by now, the city has developed a “Magnificent 7” project list that is the focus of the city manager’s office and council.

We’ve been working on the details and contracts of the Magnificent 7 projects over the past several months. Now as we go into the fall the citizens will begin to see dirt turning and activities. Be watching for a series of videos from the council and staff that will highlight the magnificent 7 and provide details on the impact of community and progress.

Here is the list of the Magnificient 7:

  1. providing spec light industrial park space through the TItan Business Park,
  2. developing the Co-Op into a mixed-use entertainment district,
  3. developing Downtown Hutto,
  4. repositioning the City’s variable rate high-cost water assets with a goal of stabilizing rates for citizens,
  5. purchasing and developing a park that connects to the regional park system in Williamson County,
  6. investing in infrastructure and public safety through a streets and drainage program, and
  7. ensuring a vibrant economic base for the city’s future by investing in infrastructure for the main growth corridors over the next 20 years.

These key strategies comprise Jones’ and the City Council’s unwavering commitment to growing Hutto stronger through a well-thought out, sustainable manner while balancing the tax burden on its citizens.

All of this will have a positive impact on helping Hutto grow into a live, play, and work community.

Personally, I like the fall season the best, the next five months may be the busiest time of the year, but is also the most exciting, with cooler weather on the horizon, high school football, then Thanksgiving and Christmas. Between the ISD and the City, there are many opportunities to get out and be involved, meet your neighbors and support your community.

I look forward meeting and seeing you out and about in Hutto.

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I thought I’d go ahead and start with the topic closest to all our hearts…the budget.

Each year, the City Council adopts a budget and tax rate that outlines projected revenues and expenditures for the fiscal year- how much coming in and how much going out? It also works as an annual operating plan, since it not only specifies which programs and services are supported in the coming year, but it also records which money is tied to what program or project.  

The Annual Budget also takes into account the Strategic Planning elements adopted by the City Council, such as the Capital Improvements Plan and the Departmental Service Plans, and all of those elements are given a priority by the City Council. To help city staff focus on the approved priorities for the fiscal year, the City Council also adopts Annual Budget Priorities.

The City’s fiscal year runs October 1 through September 30.

To accomplish all this, there are four typical stages any municipality budget goes through. These may not be the exact same across every city in Williamson County, but it gives you a good idea of the process.

1.       Preparation: the budget involves the development of expenditure estimates for departments in light of available revenues. You can usually tell when we’re in this phase because the Chief Financial Officer of the City has probably moved into his or her office temporarily, and looks a bit frazzled. Department heads meet with the CFO and City Manager for individual budgets, which usually ends up with the department heads looking frazzled, too.

2.       Approval: budget estimates are then submitted to the city council for review and modification, and then approved and adopted. Budget estimates may change due to citizen input from public meetings. This part can be a bit bumpy. Departments usually want a bit more money and residents want and deserve to know how we’re going spend their taxes responsibly.

3.       Implementation: the budget is then implemented by municipal departments throughout the year. Some months may have a bit more money allocated to them because different programs operate during different months. Parks and Recreation’s budget looks a bit different in February than it does between June and August, because summer camp programs need camp counselors and other workers, and so…those months have more money budgeted to them.

4.       Evaluation/Audit: departmental performance is monitored and measured throughout the fiscal year, and that data is used to help make the budgeting decisions for the next year.  

Right now, the City of Hutto is in the preparation stage. Our Chief Financial Officer, Michel Sorrell is working with all our departments to finalize proposed budgets. After that, they’ll meet with the City Manager and finalize their proposed budget which then goes to the City Council. The City Council will review the proposed budget, make any necessary changes and then, we’ll begin the process for finalizing the budget.

Join us for the Budget Workshop on July 13, here at City Hall. You’ll get a chance to see the proposed budget and learn more about the entire process. I really hope we’ll see you there, and as always, if you see me out and about, say hi!

It’s hard to believe it’s already May. Before any of us realize, school will be out, summer activities will be in full swing – by the way have you contacted Hutto Parks and Recreation about summer camps? – and we’ll be zooming on towards the fall.

With that said, the City Council and I are looking forward to working through the summer for the City of Hutto, and to make sure I’m speaking the same language as you are, I’m going to try something a little different for the next few blogs. I want to do a little less general chatting, and a little more direct discussion about how the City government functions, and how it affects all the citizens and residents of Hutto. After all, we’re all hippos in this together.

What I’d like to do is arrange my blog around a monthly theme. Oh, it won’t be set in stone, so I can still be flexible and address important issues that crop up, but that way, we’ve all got an idea of what’s topics will be covered in the coming months.

Right now, and this might be a little ambitious because it’s a pretty lengthy list, I have the following themes in mind for discussion over the coming months:

o   Partnerships- How we develop them, why they’re critical in government business.

o   Growth- How much is enough? How much is too much? How do we, as a community, decide?

o   History- We all love Hutto’s history, so let’s work on preserving it.

o   Culture- Hutto has a small town feel, and we want to keep that, while attracting new business.

o   Community- What makes our “Hippo Nation” so amazing and how do we foster a feeling of community in a growing city?

o   Budget- Money is always important, and you deserve to know how we handle it.

o   Processes- How does the City do what it does, and how do we improve processes involved in budgeting, decision making, or governing in general. How were existing processes created?

o   Responsibility- Every one of us has a civic responsibility to the community we live in. How can we excite you about getting involved?

o   Change- It’s inevitable, so how do we make it easier?

That’s nine different themes, ones that I want to touch on in my upcoming blogs, and then, to keep the discussion going, we’ll reach out over social media a few times over the month with articles or posts designed to inspire more questions and hopefully, answers. If it works, we’ll keep going, and if not, we’ll try something different.

As always, I love the City of Hutto, and I’m grateful to be able to serve as Mayor. If you see me out and about, don’t hesitate to come up and say hi!

Planning for Growth

In March’s blog, I mentioned how quickly Hutto is growing, and I know that for some of us, who treasure the small town atmosphere, that growth can be a little unsettling. We love living here. We love knowing our neighbors, recognizing each other at football games, and we love the feeling of community that is so important to us all. I also talked a little bit about our city’s strategic plan, and asked for your input, but I realized that I may not have explained why the strategic plan is so important, and why it’s so important for me to hear your voices as residents.

In business, strategic plans are used to set the goals you want to achieve as a company, and really, ours isn’t much different. Our city strategic goals are what we want to achieve as a city.

We want to grow the right way for Hutto, and that means stepping back from the day-to-day running of the city, in our mind’s eye anyway, and asking ourselves and each other “Where are we going and what are our priorities?” Are our priorities new housing developments, new school, and traffic management? Are they all of the above?

Strategic planning is saying “Yes, we’re planning for economic growth, but we’re also going to make sure we honor our commitment to quality of life,” and balancing those priorities, supporting education, maintaining our history, and making sure you have places for family recreation. So, I’ll ask you again to take the planning survey, and join the City Council at one of the meetings to tell me your thoughts and concerns. I look forward to hearing from you!

Springing Forward

What a great time to live in Hutto. One of the many things I love about Hutto is the small-town feel. Cliché, I know. The truth is that no matter where you go, people are friendly, and when we rally around a cause, the support is endless. We embrace that small-town feel; however, we are continuing to grow – and growing quickly.

In August of last year, the council began a journey to update the vision and direction that will encourage, embrace and manage our city’s growth. A lot of work has been done at the council and city staff level as we began looking at the strategic plan and narrowing it down to our top priorities. Now it is time to get input from the citizens on the future land use map, and the strategic plan. While we have done some internal work, we now turn to you!

The Development Services department is updating the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to accurately reflect the community’s vision and goals for growth and development. I’m asking you to complete a short, 10-question survey to help guide us through the planning process, or join us at one of the meetings for a presentation and Q&A. Come, and ask questions! Check out the web page: www.huttotx.gov/FLUM and Facebook for information on the public meetings and to complete the survey.

Continue to follow the city on Facebook and Twitter for announcements on when and where you will have the opportunity to provide input and feedback on the strategic plan.

Spring is just around the corner and we have several events coming up this spring: Reds, Whites & Brews on April 1 and, The Sunset Party Bash on April 28, and more! I invite you to attend these events; and get involved with our beautiful city. If you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to seeing you at one of these events!

Last summer, the Hutto City Council began a journey to excellence by reviewing the Strategic Guide 2035 to better align with the needs of our community and then converting it to a Strategic Execution Plan. During the initial review, the Council identified their top five priorities as Economic Development, Public Safety, Council Leadership, Infrastructure, and Growth Guidance. Since the initial meeting last summer, the Council, along with staff, have begun to address the top priorities. A few of the major accomplishments since last summer include the following:

1) A joint meeting was held with the Hutto City Council, the Hutto Economic Development Corporation, and Planning and Zoning Commission to review and realign the land use map. The Business & Development Services Department has taken the input and will present an updated map to the Council for final approval.

2) The Business & Development Services Department has begun a review of the building codes and ordinances to bring changes that are friendlier to development. The Council has already approved several codes and ordinances, and additional changes will be brought before the Council for review.

3) The City hired Mr. Odis Jones as our new city manager. Mr. Jones brings a wealth of experience and has a strong Economic Development background.

This past weekend, the Council took the next step in this journey. The Council, along with City Manager Jones and department heads, spent Saturday looking at the current state of the City and identifying the key areas that need to be addressed to attract new business and lower costs to residents and businesses. It is very clear that this Council and staff have a vision and direction that will move Hutto forward, attract business, and manage our finances. Through the discussion, the top five areas of focus identified are Economic Development, Fiscal Responsibility, Public Safety, Quality of Life & Services, and Infrastructure. We also identified the strengths, opportunities, and weaknesses within each key area. Staff will now define clear, measurable objectives that can be used to measure and track progress. We are excited and looking forward to having an execution plan that will drive Hutto forward for the next three to five years. Once the draft of the plan is complete, there will be opportunities for citizen input. Stay tuned.

I personally want to thank the City staff and Council for giving up their Saturday and being willing to look at what we need to do to move forward. At the end of this process, we will have a clear, defined execution plan that will drive the decisions and directions of the Council and staff going forward. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Welcome to 2017, Hutto! I’m excited about what the new year will bring for all of us. As we look forward to all of the possibilities and opportunities, I would like to share some thoughts for everyone to consider. To me, the new year represents an occasion to reflect on past accomplishments and opportunities, then set new goals and direction for the future.

As you look forward, I would like to challenge each one of you to become an engaged CITIZEN of Hutto. As Hutto continues to evolve and grow we need CITIZENS who are willing to make a difference, join forces and offer fresh ideas. Together we can build a prosperous community that we will continue to be proud of.

Citizenship carries responsibilities. So, what does a Hutto CITIZEN Look like?

Communicating

Engaged citizens communicate with their elected officials and city staff. They ask questions and get clarification when they have a concern. They provide information and solutions so that elected officials can make informed decisions. When they have a problem or concern, they go directly to the city staff or elected official to voice their concern and help reach a solution.

Involved

Engaged citizens are active members of the community, looking for opportunities to build up Hutto. They will serve on a board or commission, volunteer at one of the city events, or attend meetings.

Thankful

Engaged citizens show gratitude to those who serve the community – Police, Fire, Public Works, and city staff who work hard to keep the community safe and operational. They thank those that volunteer their time to make Hutto a better place; a home we can all be proud of.

Inspiring

Engaged citizens inspire others to get involved and make a difference in the community. A simple word of encouragement to a volunteer or neighbor can inspire them to continue serving.

Zealous

Engaged citizens are zealous about what they do and become fully involved in the betterment of their community. Find your passion, whatever it may be, and we can help you put that passion to work serving the community.

Example

Engaged citizens are a positive example to their neighbors. By getting involved, communicating face-to-face, and becoming part of the solution, others will soon follow your lead.

Neighborly

Engaged citizens are good neighbors. In hard times, Hutto neighbors always come together to support and uplift each other. There are some members of this community that may need a word of encouragement or a little help. Small gestures can mean a lot to someone having a hard day. Look for ways to help those around you.

THE POWER OF ONE

Poet Edward Everett Hale once wrote:

I am only one,

But still I am one.

I cannot do everything

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything

I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

What is the SOMETHING you can do THIS YEAR or THIS WEEK that will make a positive impact? DO IT TODAY!

As we go into a new year of opportunities and possibilities, I hope that I have inspired you to get involved and make a difference. Find a way to make a difference in this community or someone’s life in 2017. Together we can continue to keep Hutto a great community that supports one another. If you are looking for a way to get involved, please contact a city councilmember, city staff or myself. We will find the right fit for you to serve!

Happy New Year, Hutto! May 2017 be a prosperous year for you and all or our citizens.