In an effort to throw a life-preserver to Oklahoma schools drowning in overhead, state Sen. Ron Sharp has proposed raising the mill-limit on the amount property tax can be increased.

In an effort to throw a life-preserver to Oklahoma schools drowning in overhead, state Sen. Ron Sharp has proposed raising the mill-limit on the amount property tax can be increased.

Sharp, R-Shawnee, said hopefully these two Resolutions, if approved by the legislature — to allow the voters in 2018 to vote on the next general election ballot — will address these problems.

Under current law there is a five mill limit on the amount property tax may be increased for certain purposes with voter approval. For school districts, that purpose includes raising money for a building fund. Sharp's measure would increase the limit from five to ten mills for school districts.

“Costs have skyrocketed and, as a result, multiple bond issues are necessary to provide the revenue for repairs and buses,” he said.

Sharp said each bond issue requires district money for bonding advisors, architectural and engineering fees, plus, with the delay in repairs, costs increase — causing the necessity for multiple bond issues.

Whatever the need, the resounding plea is, “More money;” and Sharp is seeking out options.

“State questions resulted from superintendents requests across the state,” Sharp said.

Some districts have tried to cut costs through consolidation. Sharp said the state does not save money that way, either.

The State appropriation of money to school districts is based on Average Day Membership (ADM).

“With 640,000 students, state appropriation ranges from $16 per student to $7,400 per student under the court mandated Equalization formula,” Sharp said.

He said there are 39 school districts in Oklahoma that technically receive zero appropriation from the state because of their high ad valorem rates.

“Many school districts are at 20 percent or less appropriation,” he said.

Rising costs for the operation of the school district's buildings is a responsibility of the district's voters, he said.

“To keep their school district open, the voters must assume responsibility,” Sharp said. “Especially in those districts where the assessed value of their property has not increased in value or additional homes are not being built to add to their tax base.”

If approved, the constitutional changes will allow school districts the additional revenue from bonds to address for maintenance issues to their buildings, buses, and possibly provide new facilities, he said.

“If the school district patrons want to keep their school district and school sites operational, they must step up to the plate and pay for it with revenue,” Sharp said.

The levies provide for the daily operation of school facilities, which are also increasing.

“In order to keep your buildings operational, the voters must approve these levies,” he said.

Approval of all school bonds will still require a 60-percent supermajority vote of all district voters, he said.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.