TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma public schools stand to lose about $40 million this year because of new tax exemptions that have primarily benefited telecommunications companies, utilities and railroads, according to Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates.
Passed by Oklahoma voters in 2012, State Question 766 extended the intangible property tax exemption that locally assessed companies enjoyed previously to centrally assessed corporations.
The Tulsa World reports (http://bit.ly/1fbW0mc ) that of the 254 centrally assessed corporations that could have qualified, 97 submitted exemption claims and 69 of those had their claims recognized.
Paula Ross, communications director for the tax commission, said revenue from those centrally assessed properties account for a significant portion of property tax revenue that benefits public schools and local governments, with 67.1 percent flowing to schools.
The newspaper sought the names of the corporations after the Tulsa school board was recently told at a public meeting that AT&T had been the biggest beneficiary of the change in state law. But Ross said confidentiality rules prevented the commission from providing a company-by-company breakdown.
She said the telecommunications sector accounted for $34.4 million — or 57 percent of the $60.2 million estimated to be lost in property tax revenue.
Trish Williams, the Tulsa school district's chief financial officer, told the board the decrease in net assessed valuation could be attributed only to the first-year impact of corporations like AT&T being allowed to exempt themselves from paying millions in property taxes.
For Tulsa schools, the loss is estimated at $1.4 million from the general fund and $200,000 from the building fund.
"The impact is expected to grow in the coming years as more companies claim exemption status and as our economy becomes more service- and technology-centered," Williams said.
Estimates of the impact State Question 766 will have on 2014 property tax collections have varied from $12 million to $60 million and, in worst-case scenarios, about $100 million.