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Some school districts moving quickly to abolish millage elections


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Some Oklahoma school districts are moving quickly to put the issue of abolishing annual school millage elections to a vote.

State Question 690, which passed Tuesday by a narrow margin, allows local voters to abolish annual votes for a 10 mill support levy, 5 mill building levy and 5 mill emergency levy.

"I believe they will move as quickly as possible to have an election that will not require them to do these every year," said Marty Bull, Oklahoma Education Association spokeswoman.

Schools normally hold millage elections in February. Some districts could ask voters to approve the millages followed by another question regarding whether annual millage elections are needed, said Kay Harley, Oklahoma State Department of Education general counsel.

"Of course, the permanency aspect of it would have to be a separate question," Harley said.

The State School Boards Association began fielding calls Wednesday from districts about how soon they could put the issue before the voters, said Keith Ballard, executive director.

One of those quick-acting districts was Edmond.

That district's board will meet at 8 a.m. Monday at the district's administration building to discuss adding to the February school election ballot a question that would allow voters to make some annual Edmond millages permanent.

School board members will consider a resolution that would add the question to the district's Feb. 13 election.

"I expect that based on the calls we are getting in our office, that a lot of districts will go ahead with it," Ballard said.

School boards have until Nov. 17 to pass a resolution and get it to the county election board for the question to be on the ballot in February, said Doug Mann, whose law firm represents more than 300 school districts, including Tulsa Public Schools.

"Any resolution that is to be voted on by the people in February must be to the election board 15 days prior to the filing period, which is Dec. 4," Mann said.

Nov. 19, which is the 15-day limit, is a Sunday. Tulsa Public Schools will have to call a special board meeting next week and consider adopting a resolution, Mann said.

A millage election has never failed in the 11 years Kirby Lehman has been superintendent of Jenks Public Schools. But calling an election costs his district about $9,000, Lehman said.

Savings from not holding the elections could go into teacher salaries and materials, he said.

Lehman said he was not surprised SQ 690 passed, adding that the public thought the issue was about supporting schools.

"My board has not given me direction on this," Lehman said when asked about how quickly the district would move to put the issue before patrons. "I can't say for certain. I hope we move within the next few months."

State Education Secretary Floyd Coppedge said he believes the only reason the question passed was because it allowed districts that abolished local millage elections to put them back on the ballot if they choose.

Ten percent of the registered voters in a district could sign a petition calling for an election to bring back annual millage elections.

Some districts could decide to continue to hold the annual elections, State Superintendent Sandy Garrett said.

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