Tulsa schools seeking money from county

Friday, May 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

State budget cuts have Tulsa Public Schools facing a $4-million shortfall this year, and next year could be even worse.

So the district is now turning to the county for help. But as News on Six anchor Terry Hood reports, the county says it could have budget problems of its own.

Budget cuts from the state have forced Tulsa Public Schools to stop hiring teachers, cut travel expenses and pare down purchases. But despite the belt-tightening, TPS is still coming up short. Now the district is turning to Tulsa County for help. Charles Stidham, Executive Director of Finance for the district, "They've built their surplus to what I would call gigantic proportions and we're hoping that the county will step up during this time when the school districts need and take some expenses we incur off our back."

County officials tell a different story. They say most of the $14.5 million that was labeled surplus on last years budget was actually earmarked for the renovation of the old county jail.

Wayne Carr, Tulsa County Finance Officer, "The city of Tulsa has their budget problems, we have ours, the school has theirs, there's just a shortfall all over. Somehow or another the people think that the county has a magic pot of gold and that I'm a leprechaun."

The district is hoping for two proposals. Plan 'A' has the county increasing its education budget and absorbing some costs, like forgiving the $800,000 it pays for property inspections or using sheriff's deputies for school security. Plan 'B' would change how the money from mills is distributed. Right now 10 mills support the county and 5 mills fund the schools. TPS is asking the county to give up two of their mills.

Wayne Carr: "If they do take the two mills from us we'll be as hurt as the school board was, and we'll have shortfalls in place of their shortfalls." Charles Stidham: "I have no reason to believe that the county commissioners won't be our white knight and won't jump up and take this challenge on and say hey yeah lets help em out."

TPS is asking the county for a re-distribution of money already collected. Neither of its proposals involves raising additional taxes.