DONNA, RGV – The City of Donna’s assessed valuation has jumped from nearly $500 million in 2016 to $625 million in 2018.

For fiscal year 2016, the City of Donna’s assessed valuation was $499,942,898; In 2017, it was $539,834,573; and in 2018, the Donna’s Finance Department had projected the amount to be at approximately $561,427,956.

However, the preliminary estimate from the Hidalgo County Appraisal District has the City’s assessed valuation at $625,972,079; a 15.95 percent increase.

Ernesto Silva

Donna Interim City Manager Ernesto Silva pointed that since 2013, the City of Donna has experienced a “tremendous growth” in passenger vehicle traffic at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge, sales tax collections, and property values. “The growth has come as a result of new businesses moving into town and higher property values,” Silva said.

Why the dramatic increase in growth in Donna? Some city leaders say the rehiring of Silva and his Silva Otting & Silva management consultancy firm is part of the reason.

In 2013, Donna city officials rehired Silva Otting & Silva LLC to assist them in implementing a financial and management plan to help the city with its struggling economy. Their decision appears to be paying off with big dividends.

The City recently received the preliminary assessed valuation from the Hidalgo County Appraisal District for 2018 and estimated the assessed valuation of the City at a remarkable $625,972,079. The estimate is an $86,137,506 increase from 2017.

When compared to 2013, the year that Silva Otting & Silva LLC was rehired to assist the City, the increase in assessed valuation is $246,641,132. “That is a 65.08 percent percentage increase,” Silva pointed out.

Silva told the Rio Grande Guardian that many Donna taxpayers painfully recall the days – not too long ago – when Donna was in the news for having financial difficulties after constructing the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge. To help pay for the bridge, the City had to increase its property tax rate to $1.26, making it the highest tax rate in the State of Texas.

Silva acknowledged that the City had to raise its tax rate to pay for the bridge debt. However, he said the City’s decision to sell bonds and borrow two years of capitalized interest was taken so the City wouldn’t have to raise taxes yet again.

A conversation with consultant Ernesto Silva about all things Donna and Mid Valley.

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Thursday, June 1, 2017

“The original financial plan for the bridge included borrowing enough money to make payments on the bridge bonds for the first two years, while the bridge opened and traffic increased,” Silva explained.

“The plan also called for the City to market the bridge in Mexico and implement an aggressive economic development plan to bring new businesses to the City. Those plans, however, never materialized when there was a change in administration and my firm was released in 2010.”

A historical look at the City’s assessed valuation from 2010 to 2012 supports Silva’s analysis. From 2010 to 2012, the assessed valuation in Donna declined by $505,329. The Bridge also appeared to be functioning below expectations with only an average of 790 cars per day. By 2017 that number had increased by 802 cars. “That’s a whopping 101 percent increase in daily traffic,” Silva said.

Another indicator worth looking at during that same period, Silva said, is the City’s sales tax collections. In 2010, the City collected $1,483,691. In 2017, it collected $3,027,541. “That is a whopping 104 percent increase,” Silva said.

When asked “What’s the secret?” Silva said: “There are no secrets, only hard choices and even harder work. I feel the turning point for the City of Donna was when the new leadership decided to make the tough decisions to hold the line on spending, implement a viable marketing plan in Mexico, and implement an aggressive economic development plan. Here you have the end result. None of this would have happened without the support and commitment of the City Council. They have made all the tough decisions and deserve all the credit.”

With the increase in revenues, Silva said the City plans to undertake projects that can improve the quality of life for its citizens. For example, he said the plans include improvements to city parks, street paving, drainage projects, a youth recreational center, and other recommendations that citizens have requested.

Silva finished the interview by explaining that the City Council will present a draft budget in June for the second year in a row. The draft will include reducing the City tax rate and water/sewer rates for the next fiscal year.