Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long spoke to a packed house about the state of the county at the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon Thursday.
More than 75 attendees listened as she shared stats on the county’s growth—which has gone from a population of 38,853 in 1950 to more than 705,000 in 2023—as well as what the county is currently working on when it comes to infrastructure, emergency services, parks and trails, and more.
“County government is responsible for infrastructure—mostly the 1,500 miles of county roadways—as well as law enforcement and jail, our judicial system, setting the budget and tax rate, veterans’ services, elections, subdivision review and platting for subdivisions outside of cities and indigent health care,” Long said. “The commissioners court is also responsible for everything that the other elected officials don’t do—including emergency services, IT services and parks and trails.”
Long added that Williamson County has 30 elected officials, four of whom are county commissioners. Each commissioner represents a different precinct in the county. Long serves Liberty Hill, Leander and Cedar Park in Precinct 2.
Williamson County’s largest share of revenue -- approximately 63 percent -- comes from property taxes, Long said.
“I’m very mindful of that because every time I vote to spend money on anything I’m taking it out of somebody else’s pockets and I’m mindful of that,” she added.
The county’s revenue goes into three “buckets,” Long said, which include the general fund that funds the operations of the county ($283 million in 2023), road and bridge fund ($58 million in 2023), and the debt service fund ($165 million in 2023).
Long said some of the highlights from the 2023 budget included a focus on public safety.
“We gave pretty dramatic increases to our corrections officers and our sheriff’s deputies in a time where people in other communities are defunding the police, we are defending our police,” Long said. “We want to make sure we are because that is the thing that is number one on everybody’s list in terms of quality of life. If you can’t feel safe in your home and community, it doesn’t matter the great amenities you might have in your community.”
Long added that another EMS station was recently opened in Hutto, and that emergency services will continue to be expanded as the needs arise.
“In the next budget year, we are looking at another one in the Liberty Hill area,” she said.
Road maintenance has also been a top priority, Long added.
“We added some additional money into our road and bridge fund this last year,” she said. “We were doing a decent job until the craziness of 2020 … we got behind on some of our maintenance on our county roads, so we added some additional capital into our budget to pick up the pace on that. We’re looking to do that again this year.”
Long also said when it comes to the debt service fund, the county has worked diligently to pay off debt early, which has resulted in over $200 million in interest savings for taxpayers. Long also mentioned she’s proud of the county’s current tax rate, which sits at $0.375 per $100 property value right now, as well as the commissioners’ decision to increase the homestead exemption by 5 percent or $5,000, whatever is greater for each homeowner.
Long also spoke about the county’s transportation system, stating that up through 2019, voters have approved close to $1.3 billion worth of transportation improvements, which includes 400 new lane miles of road.
In Liberty Hill specifically, projects on the docket include the Liberty Hill Bypass, which will run south of downtown Liberty Hill and provide an alternate truck route, and the extension of County Road 258 to better accommodate the future middle and high schools that will be built in that area.
Along Bagdad Road, there will be an expansion of the Brushy Creek Regional Trail, which Long said she hopes to eventually connect to downtown Liberty Hill from River Ranch County Park, which she also addressed.
She said the long-awaited River Ranch County Park opening is now set for this summer.
“We had some real contractor problems and we had to go after their surety on some stuff,” she said. “The contractor we have out there now, Chasco, is just knocking it out of the park and it is close to being finished. We don’t have any state parks in Williamson County, so this will be the closest we’ll have to that in our area. We are looking forward to being able to open.”
Long added that a citizens' bond committee is currently working and taking input from public and municipalities to determine if the county needs another bond election and what it might look like, as well as what kind of roads and parks would be included. Following the committee’s analysis, the commissioners court will decide if a bond election is needed, and if so, that will occur in November.