Tracking Your Tax Dollars: Delinquent Property Taxes

Number 26203
Subject Education
Source KJRH-TV (Tulsa, Okla.)
State Okla.
Year 2013
Publication Date May 20, July 24, Aug. 28 & 30, 2013
Summary Oklahoma is ranked 49th in the country when it comes to funding education. Property taxes make up at least a quarter of a school district's entire budget. We started investigating and discovered Tulsa County alone was owed $10 million in delinquent property taxes. Further investigation uncovered that the entity that owed the most in delinquent property taxes was the state of Oklahoma. It owed $2 million just to Tulsa County. Here's why: Basically, to entice a manufacturing company to come to Oklahoma, the state offers tax incentives. The state tells manufacturer X we'll pay your property taxes, if you come here. The state has made the promise to hundreds of businesses. However, the state can't afford to pay the taxes that it has promised to pay to 56 different counties in Oklahoma. The state was behind on paying the counties the manufacturers' property taxes. The state owed a total of $26 million to counties across the state, which affects hundreds of school districts. Meanwhile, students are crammed into overcrowded classrooms because districts don't have enough money to hire more teachers. We found of the property taxes owed, the portion that would go to Tulsa Public Schools, would be enough to hire 200 additional teachers. We took our findings to state Senator Sean Burrage. He not only said the state needs to pay its property taxes, but he is writing legislation to mandate the state pay up. The legislation is to ensure that there is enough money in the state's fund to pay for the manufacturers property taxes. Burrage has also talked to senate leadership about his concerns and is working to gain support from fellow lawmakers. The legislative session starts in early February, that's when he will officially file his bill.
Category Contest Entry
Keywords education; funding; property taxes
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