Sand Springs Board of Education authorizes litigation against State

By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

The Sand Springs Board of Education held their regular monthly meeting and used the opportunity to present a series of awards and recognitions, approve the hiring of new staff, and discuss district finances. 

Bob Anderson was awarded the Sandite Spirit Award and Coins of Excellence were presented to retiring Superintendent Lloyd Snow, retiring Chief Financial Operator Gary Watts, retiring Pratt Principal Jim Roberts, retiring Athletic Director Ed Garrett, retiring Encumbrance Clerk Sally Gramm, Board Clerk Kim Clenney, and District Artchitect Jeanie Kvach.

The Board approved the employment of six new employees for the upcoming school year. Clyde Boyd Middle School will be adding Rebekah Anderson as a Seventh Grade Writing Teacher. Charles Page High School will get five new employees: Kristen Anderson, Special Ed Teacher; Matthew Miller, World History Teacher; Kimberly Mutch, Advanced Math Teacher; Lindsay Ross, Counselor; Matt Solomon, Art Teacher. 

The school board unanimously approved a motion to authorize funding of no more than $5,000 for the purpose of joining ongoing litigation before the Oklahoma Supreme Court against the State Department of Education and the Oklahoma Tax Commission concerning past allocations of state aid payments. The lawsuit, which was filed in March, includes about fifty school districts seeking reparations for twenty-two years of misappropriation of commercial and agricultural property taxes. The defense maintains that despite their acknowledgement and correction of the error in 2014, they should not be made to collect reparations from the schools that benefited due to the unreliability of data predating 2004 due to the fact that all records used in the calculation of state aid are disposed of after twelve years. Furthermore, they cite a three-year statute of limitations on similar cases. The defense issued a response to the petitioners' claims on June 1st, pointing out "the dire budget situations already facing the schools that will be negatively impacted."

The district is already engaged in litigation against the Oklahoma Tax Commission for allegedly misappropriating funds associated with motor vehicle collections authorized by the passage of HB2244 by the 55th Legislature. The plaintiff is not seeking reparations from the school districts that benefited from the alleged error, but seeks for the state aid formula to be corrected going forward. The board initially went straight to the State Supreme Court in the hopes of enacting a decision before June 30th. The Supreme Court denied the petition in April, however, meaning the suit will have to go through the district courts first. The district claims a loss of more than $200,000 thus far and expects that amount to double by the time a decision is reached. 

The proposed budget for 2016-2017 was also unanimously approved during the board meeting. Revenue is expected to decline by $3,761,380 from the last fiscal year. Operating expenses have been slashed by $3,094,000, which Superintendent Snow says will result in fifty-one fewer employees across the school district.