“Property taxes are reaching crisis levels across Texas. It’s an issue in so many towns. Local government debt is mainly the crisis, because we see local governments venturing into areas they shouldn’t be in.

“When we started [the city of Von Ormy], one of the things we realized was that we couldn’t compete with San Antonio on tax abatements, utilities, water, road construction. We didn’t have those kinds of funds. But we could beat them in bureaucracy and tax rates.

“We started out with zero fees. Everything was free for residential. Commercial was either free or at-cost. As our sales tax base increased we increased our budget to provide more services and discount the property tax. The first or second year we did it, we were the only taxing district in the county that lowered taxes. This was in the middle of the recession and everyone else was raising rates. Residents were tightening their belts, so should their government.

“Each year we did that until we were able to eliminate the property tax. And there still isn’t one to this day.

How do you eliminate property taxes? Keeping expenditures in check. Do the basics well.

“We privatized everything we could possibly think of. We privatized trash collection, recycling, road maintenance, inspections. Today now that we’re fully established, we only have two full-time employees for a population of around 1,300. Everyone else is a contractor.

“There are some communities that want an extremely high level of services and want to be taxed for it. But when you look at most cities, their tax bill isn’t current services, around half is funding debt.

“The avoidance and reduction of debt would allow you to eliminate half or more of the property tax.”

— Art Martinez de Vara
Von Ormy, Texas