Von Ormy, Texas: A Liberty Success Story
Many cities across Texas are racing to max out property tax rates before strong new taxpayer protections take effect early next year.
But this isn’t the case in Von Ormy, Texas. That’s because this small town doesn’t collect property taxes.
Located south of San Antonio, Von Ormy is flourishing, thanks in large part to its liberty-centric view of government—an approach that’s been favored for more than a decade.
It hasn’t always been that way. In the past, Von Ormy did collect property taxes, but local leaders implemented a plan to reduce them by roughly 10% a year—and eventually phase them out. That happened in 2015. The city now gets its revenues from sales taxes, franchise fees collected from utility companies, and miscellaneous permits.
In addition to eliminating its property tax, Von Ormy, better known as a “liberty city,” carries no debt, spends little, and has more than enough cash on hand to fully cover maintenance and operations costs for a full year in the event of a sudden emergency.
It has stayed true to its original purpose—to provide residents with needed municipal services.
What’s more, Von Ormy doesn’t interfere with the local economy, either. The city avoids handing out any type of economic development grants or other incentives. It also strives to treat all entities and individuals equally for the purposes of taxation.
As a result of its light fiscal footprint, Von Ormy was rated by Niche (a company which ranks cities, neighborhoods, etc. according to various criteria) as the suburb with the lowest cost of living in the San Antonio area. Small government begets affordable living.
Von Ormy’s impressive structure extends beyond fiscal policy too. Local officials have also shunned calls to create cumbersome new rules and regulations intruding on the day-to-day activities of its residents—a refreshing break from the progressive onslaught unfolding across Texas and the nation.
As an example of Von Ormy’s moxie, consider that when the idea of putting a curfew in place for the minors in the city was introduced, councilmembers voted it down, believing it was a legal constraint on travel and it would have discriminated against and criminalized youth.
Von Ormy’s trailblazing model has become a template for other communities to imitate and many, like Kingsbury and Sandy Oaks, have done just that, incorporating as liberty cities with similar approaches to taxation and regulation.
This begs the question: Could a bigger, more established city follow Von Ormy to success?
Absolutely! But it may take a little longer to get there.
Some of the delay stems from the fact that many large existing cities are mired in decades of debt and reams of red tape, which have accumulated over long periods. Some of these things may take a while to unwind; but just as Von Ormy showed at its start in a small way, a determined city can break away from the status quo and embrace a better way of governing to the benefit of its residents.
For cities big and small, Von Ormy’s liberty city model is an example to emulate. It’s a model that places a premium on the pocketbooks and prosperity of city residents while still affording officials the ability to provide basic services.
And it’s a bold reminder that limited government paired with fiscal responsibility works, and it works well. That’s a message that many city and county officials need to hear and take to heart today.
Grace Watson is a legislative fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.