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School board approves resolution in funding dispute

Ponca City Now - December 19, 2014 1:10 pm

By Beverly Bryant/News Director

The Ponca City Board of Education approved a resolution to authorize Superintendent Dr. David Pennington to file a lawsuit on behalf of the school district.

It would seek relief against the State Department of Education, the Oklahoma Tax Commission with regard to the failure of the State Department of Education and the Tax Commission to follow the law in calculating the district’s state aid for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Any necessary individuals also are included in the resolution.

The resolution was passed unanimously at a special meeting at noon Friday.

Pennington told the board that the calculations have been wrong since the 1991-92 school year when the commercial personal and agricultural personal ad valorem taxes were computed at 11 percent. The language of the law required the Oklahoma Tax Commission to supply those calculations to the school boards, but it was never done..

Pennington has raised the issue many times over the past 10 years, and said he finally got to the right person at the State Department of Education and the right person at the Oklahoma Tax Commission who admitted the calculations for state funds were erroneous.

Ponca City’s superintendent said he thought the calculations would be refigured before the midterm adjustments in January.

"We found out the first of December that it was not going to be fixed," Pennington said.

He said he and superintendents from Edmond, Oklahoma City, Mid-Del, Western Heights, Enid and Putnam City schools met on Monday to discuss the issue. Each agreed to bring a similar resolution to their school boards for approval.

Pennington said their concern was the State Department of Education would pass the midyear adjustments with or without the correct information from the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Since that is the final time funds would be issued this school year, the districts would have to wait another year to receive their correct allocations, he said.

Western Heights School Board approved its resolution Thursday night, Pennington said, and the Enid board was meeting at the same time the Ponca City board met Friday.

Pennington told the board he had learned a lot about taxes through this battle.

"There are still three counties which have not provided their information to the Tax Commission that was due Nov. 1," he said. "And even if the State Department of Education had all the information today, their computer is antiquated. The man who could write a program to compute the allocations is out until Feb. 1, 2015."

Pennington shared a memo from State School Superintendent Janet Barresi which he said seems to indicate that changes will be made in the calculations. However, that was contradicted in a later paragraph indicating Barresi was unwilling to miss the Jan. 15 deadline for issuing the midyear adjustment to schools.

Board attorney Gary Bracken said the resolution would allow Pennington to immediately seek an injunction if the midyear adjustments are made in January without correct information from the Tax Commission, and he could also seek a writ of mandamus against the Tax Commission to produce the correct figures.

"What it comes down to is the children in this district have been short-changed for 22 years," Pennington said.

"I am adamant the we have to get this right," he said. "We can’t go another year without getting this fixed."


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