By Mindy Ragan Wood
Yukon and Piedmont school districts are being forced to pay back nearly $1 million following an error in payments made by the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Piedmont Public Schools will lose $778,277.07 and Yukon Public Schools will give back $633,618.75. The OTC will reduce tax payments to make up the difference in overpayment for the next 13 months.
The OTC allocates a percentage of motor vehicle taxes to schools.
Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish agreed with six school districts who filed a lawsuit in 2016 against the OTC after several school districts believed the state’s funding formula was not being followed correctly.
Lawmakers changed the formula in 2015 and the districts believed the OTC had misinterpreted how it was supposed to divide up the vehicle taxes. The districts argued in their lawsuit that the OTC should have allocated tax dollars based on the percentage of the previous year’s collections and not on average daily student attendance. It was a win for smaller districts who have fewer students.
The OTC’s error remained uncorrected until districts threatened to take the OTC back to court in September. Last month schools started receiving letters that the money will be repaid to those affected and deducted from those which were given more than its share.
During the Piedmont Board of Education January meeting, Superintendent James White said the deductions had not begun.
“They’re telling us it will begin in February. That’s assuming they go through with it. There could be more legal wrangling too,” White told the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette Wednesday.
The district is prepared to absorb the deductions from the OTC, thanks to “a healthy cash balance at the end of the year and a carry over,” White said. “Going forward it will eat into in that in the future.”
Yukon Superintendent Jason Simeroth said the letter he received last month was a surprise.
“No one knew about it until late December when the tax commission sent us the letter,” Simeroth. “Fortunately, we are in a firm financial position and will be able to shoulder the reduction without any adverse consequences.”
The schools which filed suit included Sand Springs, Altus, Canton, Lone Wolf, Ponca City and Quapaw.
Piedmont and Yukon were among 146 districts that were overpaid by as much as $23 million against 271 smaller districts which were underpaid, the Tulsa World reported last September.