OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma public school official said Wednesday that districts in the state face the loss of millions of dollars following the approval of two measures that would reduce property taxes.
One of the measures approved by voters Tuesday reduces the maximum increase on annual property valuations from 5 percent to 3 percent and the other exempts intangible property, such as copyrights, from property taxes.
“I don’t think it’s a fear, I think it’s a reality because schools are funded largely by property taxes. When the property taxes are reduced there are fewer dollars,” said Oklahoma State School Boards Association Director Jeff Mills.
“They (schools) cut programs, they cut staff, they cut their expenses. That’s all they can do,” Mills said.
He estimated the annual reduction in funding at around $55 million for public schools, including vocational-technical schools.
Supporters said limiting property-value increases will benefit the elderly and those on fixed incomes, while exempting intangible property will attract businesses to the state.
Norman Public Schools Superintendent Joe Siano said his district faces a $600,000 loss next year due to the exemption on intangible property. He said communities need to hold legislators accountable and get them to explain how they plan to make up for the revenue lost by schools.
Also approved was a measure to remove the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders, a plan that supporters say would make the probation and parole system more efficient.
Republican Gov. Mary Fallin initially supported the plan, State Question 762, but reversed her position after concerns from district attorneys who wanted the additional level of oversight.
“Gov. Fallin has always supported and continues to support removing the governor from the parole process for criminals with no history of violence,” Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said in a statement. “She opposed SQ 762, however, because it defined ‘non-violent offenders’ as those not currently serving an offense for a violent crime, without mandating that previous crimes or histories of violence be taken into account.”
Another ballot item that was approved eliminates affirmative action programs in state government, a change that supporters said would have a minimal impact, mainly on some scholarships that target women or minorities.
The impact of that amendment is still being studied, according to Gary Shutt, a spokesman for Oklahoma State University, which administers scholarships such as the National Hispanic Scholars program.
“We are in the process of doing a comprehensive review to ensure that we are in compliance with the terms of the amendment,” Shutt said.
Voters also passed measures changing the way the state Department of Human Services is governed and allowing the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds.