By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
The Sand Springs Public School District joined seven other districts in a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Tax Commission earlier this summer, alleging that the Commission was misappropriating funds associated with House Bill 2244. The plaintiffs won their suit Friday.
The School Board initially went straight to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in hopes of enacting a decision before June 30th, but the Court denied the petition in April, sending it back to the district courts.
Sand Springs claims a loss of nearly $300,000 since the new law concerning motor vehicle tax revenue took effect in July of 2015. The Board was joined by Altus, Ponca City, Muskogee, Mid-Del, Quapaw, Canton and Lone Wolf Public Schools.
The lawsuit, led by former Sand Springs Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Gary Watts, did not seek reparations for the lost revenue, but demanded that the Commission correct their allocations going forward.
HB2244 caps the amount of motor vehicle tax money that education receives at 36.2 percent. Previously, Oklahoma law mandated that the schools were to receive the same amount as the previous year, regardless of actual revenue. If revenue dipped one year, the Commission dipped into the State's share of funding to supplement the schools. HB2244 abolished that clause.
In months where the revenue wasn't high enough to give schools the same amount they received in previous years, the Commission should have decreased allotments equally between all districts based on what they received the previous year. Instead, the Commission dispersed based on average daily attendance.
Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish sided with the plaintiffs and ordered the OTC to correct future allocations for all schools.