Ad Valorem Tax for Education
One of the major issues the Oklahoma Legislature dealt with during the past session was teacher pay. The result was increases in state taxes and fees that provided an average $6,100 a year raise to each Oklahoma teacher.
State Question 801 seeks to allow local districts to tap another funding source—ad valorem taxes dedicated to a school building fund—for operations expenses, including teacher and other salaries. Ad valorem taxes are voter-approved property taxes that are assessed on local residential and commercial properties. A portion of these taxes are currently designated by the state for a building fund, used by schools to build, remodel, or repair its structures as well as to pay for furnishings and related expenses.
Because school districts differ in size and the total value of taxable properties they contain within the jurisdiction, they also differ in the amount of ad valorem taxes they collect.
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PROPONENTS SAY: YES
- School districts would have the option to use building fund property taxes in excess of their capital needs to pay for operating expenses such as teacher salaries and textbooks.
- The flexibility in using these funds would reduce the need for the state to raise taxes.
- The measure would allow schools to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to upkeep on such things as buildings, furniture, and equipment.
- School districts would have more control over their spending decisions.
OPPONENTS SAY: NO
- The measure would shift more of the funding burden for instruction from the state to local districts.
- Some districts, especially those with lower funding, would be forced to choose between paying teachers more and fixing buildings.
- The amendment would incentivize the Legislature to reduce appropriations for education as well as cause teacher unions to push for tapping the building fund for salary increases.
- Disparities in instructional quality among districts would increase based on differences in ad valorem tax collections.
This measure would provide a means for voters to allow school districts to expand the permissible uses of ad valorem tax revenues to include school operations.
The Oklahoma Constitution limits the rate of ad valorem taxation. However, it permits voters in a school district to approve an increase of up to five mills ($5.00 per $1,000.00 of the assessed value of taxable property) over this limit for the purpose of raising money for a school district building fund.
Currently, monies from this building fund may only be used to build, repair, or remodel school buildings and purchase furniture. This measure would amend the Constitution to permit voters to approve such a tax to be used for school operations deemed necessary by the school district, in addition to the purposes listed above.