Article XI, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

The property of counties, cities and towns owned and held only for public purposes, such as public buildings and the sites therefor, fire engines and the furniture thereof, and all property used, or intended for extinguishing fires, public grounds and all other property devoted exclusively to the use and benefit of the public shall be exempt from forced sale and from taxation; provided, nothing herein shall prevent the enforcement of the vendor's lien, the mechanic's or builder's lien, or other liens now existing.

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Recent Decisions

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Historic Decisions

  • Leander I.S.D. v. Cedar Park Water Supply Corp., 479 S.W.2d 908, 911 (Tex. 1972) ("A reading of these two sections indicates that the framers of the Constitution contemplated: (1) that Art. XI, Sec. 9, would apply only to property owned by counties, cities and towns, and would operate to exempt the property of these political subdivisions provided it was devoted exclusively to a public use; and (2) that other property publicly owned and used for a public purpose might be exempted by the Legislature under the provisions of Art. VIII, Sec. 2. It has been held, however, that Art. XI, Sec. 9, exempts all public property used for public purposes even though not owned by a county, city or town.")
  • L. C. R. A. v. Chem. Bank & Trust Co., 190 S.W.2d 48, 52 (Tex. 1945) ("Thus this court early and unequivocally denied the doctrine that the legislature has the power to tax all public property except courthouses, jails, fire fighting apparatus, school buildings, playgrounds, libraries, public parks, and the like. It announced in unmistakable language that the legislature is without power to tax any property publicly owned and held only for public purposes and devoted exclusively to the use and benefit of the public. Yet the Constitution has never been amended either to modify or overrule those clear declarations; nor, in so far as we are advised, has any attempt ever been made so to amend it.")
  • A&M Consol. I.S.D. v. City of Bryan, 184 S.W.2d 914, 915 (Tex. 1945) (citations omitted) ("The only question which we here need to determine is whether the rural electrification lines in question constitute public property used for public purposes within the meaning of either of the above provisions of our Constitution. The property in question is owned by the City of Bryan, a municipal corporation, and is therefore public property. Is it used for public purposes? In determining whether or not public property is used for a public purpose the test appears to be whether it is used primarily for the health, comfort, and welfare of the public. It is not essential that it be used for governmental purposes.")
  • City of Dayton v. Allred, 68 S.W.2d 172, 179 (Tex. 1934) (citations omitted) ("Respondent contends that these bonds are void because the statutes under which they are attempted to be issued are in contravention of section 9 of article 11 of our state Constitution in so far as such statutes attempt to authorize the giving of liens on public utilities. This constitutional provision reads as follows: "Sec. 9. The property of counties, cities and towns, owned and held only for public . . . . It is settled in this state that sales made by trustees under voluntary deeds of trust, or mortgages duly authorized by law, with express power of sale, are not forced sales. Under these authorities we overrule this objection.")
  • Corporation of San Felipe De Austin v. State, 229 S.W. 845, 846 (Tex. 1921) ("The appropriation of large areas for grazing and timber purposes is of course unknown in the establishment of municipalities in this day, but it was common in the creation of the early Texas towns chartered by the Spanish and Mexican governments. Those lands were as fully impressed with a public use and devoted to a public purpose as are the parks and public grounds of the cities of this time. It was merely a different habit in the people, a different environment . . . . It was none the less a public use, and as valuable to the people of those towns as are the public grounds of present-day municipalities to their inhabitants.")
  • Daugherty v. Thompson, 9 S.W. 99, 102 (Tex. 1888) ("Section 9, of article 11, however, exempts from taxation 'property of counties, cities, and towns owned and held only for public purposes . . . . In view of the provisions made by the constitution of this state for the establishment and maintenance of public free schools, no one would contend that lands held by counties for that purpose were not held solely for a public purpose. Lands so set apart, and solemnly appropriated for a purpose so essentially public as is the maintenance of public free schools, must be said to be 'property devoted exclusively to the use and benefit of the public.' Such property the constitution exempts from taxation.")

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