It can, it turns out, be done. Local governments can, in fact, be responsible with taxpayer funds without prompting from voters or the state government.
That’s exactly what Hays County officials did with their new $354 million budget.
Hays County adopted the no-new-revenue (NNR) tax rate, which drops the tax rate in proportion with property values, ensuring that taxes do not continue to spiral and that the people can catch their breath—that’s something critically needed as inflation soars and our economy continues to flounder.
Hays County commissioners dropped the tax rate by 7.42 cents per $100 of taxable value, meaning that the county will now collect 31.25 cents per $100 from its residents. This vital first step does not reduce property taxes for the people of Hays County (the average homeowner will still pay about $178 more per year), but it does arrest the growth of tax bills to a large degree—an important aspect in the current financial environment. While an ideal world will see taxes go down, year-over-year, as more people move into an area, Hays County’s adoption of the NNR tax rate is a positive development.
In an era dominated by big government and big government increases, the question arises: How did Hays County—the “fastest-growing county in the nation”—manage to adopt the NNR tax rate while other counties and other municipalities across the state are raising taxes at a furious pace? How did Hays manage to do the opposite?
Well, one strategy they employed was to eliminate unnecessary positions. More specifically, they cut positions that had been vacant for over 6 months. Hays County didn’t fire anyone, instead, it just found that some positions were clearly not needed and chose not to fill them—a move which saved the county around $2 million.
Hays County has set a solid standard for other counties to follow, and they’ve set themselves on a path to continue to grow and be successful.
It’s no wonder people are fleeing high-tax areas like Austin, Dallas, and other big cities and counties. If Hays continues this focus on lowering taxes, it may just find itself home to many more residents—as will other counties that adopt the same mindset.