Joint Resolution Could Improve Funding For Oklahoma Schools

Friday, May 4th 2018, 7:37 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Another school funding vote is headed to the ballot this fall.

This one would allow schools to use building fund dollars for everyday expenses.

Tulsa’s Mayor backed the change that could eventually give voters the chance to increase local funding for education. Oklahoma schools that have money for buildings but not enough for teachers and textbooks could make changes if voters approve.

“Typically, were only able to use funds for this or that need and now that would allow schools to use it for more operational needs, maybe hiring teachers it would give us the ability to do that,” said Union Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler.  

This Senate resolution will let voters first decide if school building fund dollars can be used for everyday operating expenses.

Schools could then go back to voters and ask for as much as a $5 million increase on property taxes, the equivalent of $86 a year on a $150,000 home.

"It is not the overall solution all our woes when it comes to school funding in Oklahoma. There's still a lot of things that need to be done. But this will give us flexibility and local control in a way we've not had at our disposal before," said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. 

Bynum helped push the measure at the legislature, which approved it on the next to last day.

"This resolution and the vote that will occur in November is an important step forward in allowing local citizens more flexibility in deciding how their money is spent," Bynum said. 

At Union, the Superintendent said it's too early to say if the district would ask for more taxes but just having the option means local voters can make the decision.

"We'll evaluate this and knowing we have the flexibility if the voters approve this will be a good thing because it gives us more flexibility in how we use the fund," said Dr. Hartzler. 

The vote allowing flexibility in funding will be on the ballot in November possibly along with a petition to roll back the tax increases for teacher pay.