KGOU

22-Year Error To Impact Oklahoma School Funding

Dec 19, 2014

Oklahoma's school's superintendent says miscalculations in the state's school funding formula since 1992 will soon cause a number of mid-year adjustments worth millions of dollars.

The Tulsa World reported Friday a Ponca City school official had noted that a state law caps agricultural and commercial personal property taxes at 11 percent. State Superintendent Janet Barresi said the cap has not been in place.

“In the calculation of state funding to districts, as you know, the funding formula accounts for ad valorem tax revenues,” Barresi said to board members. “In that factoring, state law enacted in 1992 mandated that agricultural and commercial personal property taxes should be capped at 11 percent. Moreover, the statute noted that the Oklahoma Tax Commission would provide that necessary data to the State Department of Education.”

That has not been happening for more than 20 years, she said.

“We agree the change does need to be made, but frankly, we do not know when it can happen,” Barresi said.

Barresi said some districts will see an increase in state funding while others will see a drop. The Oklahoma Tax Commission says new calculations won't be available until next month. Midyear adjustment figures are due Jan. 15.

Barresi said superintendents throughout the state will be receiving notice about the issue as quickly as possible.

Asked to comment on the situation, Paula Ross, communications director at the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said: “The Tax Commission provides each year the numbers requested by education that are utilized for state aid formulas calculations. These numbers include such items as net assessed valuation by school district and assessment percentages for the various classes of property. This year the agricultural and commercial property numbers were requested and will be provided.”

Ponca City Superintendent David Pennington told the newspaper he first raised the issue a decade ago but that no one in local or state governments understood the problem.

On Thursday afternoon, the Ponca City superintendent said he wished Barresi had gone a bit further in her comments but he still gives her credit for her statement at the monthly board meeting.

“I wish she would have said, ‘We’re not sending out the midyear adjustment until it’s right,’ but I appreciate her taking this on. She could have just washed her hands of it and let the next state superintendent deal with it,” he said.

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