This story is a week or so old, but hey, what do you want? I'm not Reuters or something. Anyway, here's a town being put out of business by too many churches.

Stafford, population 19,227, is the largest city in Texas without a property tax, and it depends on sales taxes and business fees for revenue. Nonprofits have been attracted by its rapid growth and minimal deed restrictions. "It's thrown everything out of balance, plus providing zero revenue. Somebody's got to pay for police, fire and schools," City Councilman Cecil Willis said.

In 2003, around the time the 45th church settled in, city leaders began looking for a way to slow the pace of construction. Public meetings were held; "we had people of different religions attending, people in their religious garb, Buddhists in their orange gowns and whatever else, talking about this very openly," [Mayor Leonard] Scarcella said. ...

"As best as we've been able to determine, the overwhelming majority of people who attend here don't even live in Stafford; they're coming from everywhere else," Willis said. Elsewhere includes Houston, about 15 miles northeast, and nearby Sugar Land.

"I don't hate God. I'm not against America and apple pie," Willis said. "We just have to protect what's left for commercial development."

And of course every church has the same convenient justification for moving to property-tax free Stafford:

Willis said he asked the last six applicants why they wanted to build a church in Stafford. "Every one of them said they prayed about it, and God said to come here," he said. "I can't compete with that, so here we are."

Strange that God wouldn't tell them to build a building in the city where the church members live.

The fact of the matter is that churches and other charities are tax free-riders, meaning that they enjoy all the same benefits that taxpayers do, but don't have to bear any of the cost. That isn't necessarily a bad idea, but the system will collapse when the number of free-riders grows too large in proportion to the contributors. The obvious solution for Stafford is to institute a property tax or some other tax that will hit charities and individuals alike, possibly offset by an elimination of the local sales tax.



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