Champion in Local Government

Aug 20, 2014 by AFP

Some local government officials are champions of economic freedom and finding ways to cut taxes for their residents – while still providing services.

Many of us who champion limited government and economic freedom have been watching Von Ormy, Texas, Mayor Art Martinez for some time.  In October 2013, The Von Ormy Star featured a headline CITY CUTS TAXES 11.5%; DOUBLES CITY MARSHAL DEPT.  That story ran on top of an article about a new million dollar fire station — JARRET VFD TO BREAK GROUND ON NEW VON ORMY FIRE STATION.

This week, he announced that he is proposing a 2015 city budget which will propose elimination of property taxes.  Even eliminating the tax, the city’s revenue will increase over 30% over the 2014 budget.

Von Ormy is a relatively new town on the outskirts of San Antonio in Bexar County.  As citizens vote to incorporate rather than be annexed by large cities, they have options.  Mayor Martinez is an innovator who is finding ways to save taxpayers money and revolutionize local government.  Former AFP Activist of the year and winner of the Unsung Hero Award, Captain Watchdog and super-activist Jason Moore, is a friend of Mayor Martinez and called this to our attention.  Thanks, Jason!

Here is a press release on the issue:
P.O. BOX 10, VON ORMY, TEXAS, 78073 | 210-857-6848

Press Release
August 18, 2014

RE: Von Ormy Mayor proposes elimination of property taxes

On Monday August 18, 2014 Von Ormy Mayor Art Martinez de Vara issued his proposed 2015 city budget.  In an historic first for any city in Bexar County, the budget proposes completely eliminating property taxes for residents of Von Ormy.

Even with the elimination of property taxes, the city’s revenues will increase 30% over its 2014 budget.  The budget conservatively projects $830,000 in reserves ending 2014.  The 2015 Von Ormy budget calls for an additional $300,000 for the purchase of a municipal building, a playground in the city park and a new patrol SUV for the City Marshal’s office.  All of these capital expenditures are to be paid in cash from reserves to avoid any debt obligations.  The budget also calls for doubling the fire department’s budget and increasing the city marshal’s office budget by 50%.

Mayor Martinez de Vara established a public goal of eliminating property taxes in 2009.  In order to achieve this, the city avoided debt, established a “no fee” regulatory environment and reduced property taxes by roughly 10% or more each year.  The city’s low tax/no fee environment encouraged small business expansion that greatly increased the city’s sales tax revenue.  Mayor Martinez de Vara recalls, “We began offering relief to Von Ormy tax payers at the height of the recession.  The first year, when we reduced taxes by 10%, we were the only taxing jurisdiction in Bexar County to make a significant cut.  In fact, most increased their taxes that year.  I believe that government should not spend every penny it collects, rather we should spend what is necessary to deliver high quality core services to our residents.  Excess taxation is unjust taxation.”  Without the city’s pro-active economic growth policies, Von Ormy may not have benefited as much as it has from increased I-35 traffic that is due to the development of Eagle Ford Shale.

Mayor Martinez de Vara said, “Like most working class communities the greatest investment that most of our residents have made is in their land and homes.  Many of our residents are on fixed incomes and property taxation is the single greatest threat to continued home ownership and the ability to pass the fruits of a lifetime of work onto the next generation.”

Since it incorporated in 2008, Von Ormy leaders have established a unique approach to municipal government that has come to be labeled by the media as a “Liberty City.” The success of Von Ormy has led to several small communities in central Texas that have recently sought incorporation to follow this model of government.

In addition to its “low tax, no fee” approach, Von Ormy has also prioritized the protection of its citizens’ civil liberties.  Von Ormy has no smoking ban, firework ban, gun restrictions or juvenile curfew.  Mayor Martinez de Vara recalled, “A few years back we had a councilmember suggest a juvenile curfew because Bexar County, San Antonio and the other suburban cities also have a curfew.  However, freedom of travel is a cornerstone of our liberty.  Restrictions on travel were the foundations of the slave codes, Jim Crow and other social controls that afflicted minority communities like ours for generations.  In Von Ormy, we do not pre-judge our children to be criminals just because of their age and we avoid interfering with our residents’ lifestyle choices, property and families.  The primary purpose of local government is the protecting of rights and city’s should focus on those things necessary to provide a higher quality of life for residents such as police protection, fire stations and litter control.”

Martinez de Vara said, “I believe that the cornerstones of a free society are the ability to keep the fruits of your labor, the right to control and use your property and the unrestricted freedom to exercise civil liberties.  That’s what we are trying to accomplish in Von Ormy.  I hope we get this budget passed, so we can add a second city motto.  ‘Tax Free Since 2015’ ”

More About Mayor Art Martinez de Vara:
Art Martinez de Vara was elected to be Von Ormy’s first Mayor in 2008 and was reelected in 2010 and 2013. He currently serves as the acting President of the Texas Municipal League Region 7.  Since organizing Von Ormy he has assisted several cities in Texas incorporate, including Sandy Oaks, Ivanhoe and Providence Village.  Martinez de Vara is an attorney in private practice.  In 2014 he was named a Texas SuperLawyer – Rising Star by Texas Monthly Magazine.  Martinez de Vara is also an historian of early Texas history.  His latest book entitled “The Jose Francisco Ruiz Papers, Volume I” will be released later this month by Alamo Press.  Mayor Art Martinez de Vara may be reached @ 210-857-6848 or

More About the City of Von Ormy:
Von Ormy incorporated in 2008 and is located in southwest Bexar County at the I-35 and Loop 1604 intersection.  The city is 2.4 square miles and has 1,300 residents.  According to the 2010 census, Von Ormy is the most Hispanic city in Bexar County at 89%.  The city was founded in 1827 by Blas Herrera, the “Paul Revere” of the Alamo.  Herrera established a ferry across the Medina River and a small community sprang up.  Judge Roy Bean opened his first saloon at the ferry crossing.   The town was known as Paso de las Garzas (Garza’s Crossing) until 1886 when Hungarian County Norbert von Ormay moved to the town and established his court on the Medina River in the Von Ormy Castle.  That same year, the postmaster renamed the city “Von Ormy.”

City of Von Ormy
Mayor Art Martinez de Vara may be reached @ 210-857-6848