TPS seeks $38,000,000.00 property tax hike May 14
Tulsa Public Schools will ask taxpayers to increase their bonded debt by $38,000,000.00 on May 14.
The Tulsa School Board said most of the money will be for “technology” that board members claim is already being used in suburban districts surrounding Tulsa. Tulsa Public Schools currently has a sinking fund rate of 23.45 mills, which is used for the retirement of existing bonds. If these bonds pass, citizens owning a house valued at $100,000 would experience a tax increase in 2014 $40.50 per year.
In 2010, Tulsa school patrons approved a $354,000,000.00 school bond package – at that time, the biggest in the history of Oklahoma. Since then, declining enrollment has forced the closure of some of the building that were improved by the borrowed money in that bond package. The 2010 bond vote included $261,400,000.00 for facilities, $19,600,000.00 for school libraries, $61,300,000.00 for classrooms and $11,700,000.00 for transportation. All four items passed. The current proposal would buy computers, interactive whiteboards, iPads, cameras, Internet Protocol TV and wireless Internet access. The board voted 6-1 for the elections with District 7 member Dr. Lois Jacobs, the only conservative member of the school board, voting no. Jacobs said she voted against the bond package for a number of reasons.
“I was elected to represent all constituents in the District 7 area, including: parents with students who are property taxpayers, residents without students who pay property tax, businesses that pay commercial property tax, individuals who do not pay property tax directly, and others, some who transfer their students to other districts. I believe there are sufficient monies at TPS to fund prioritized purchases. Therefore I voted no on March 4.”
Tulsa Public Schools needs to be more efficients, Jacobs said.
“Efficiency, proper prioritizing and the cost of debt are considerations,” she said. “Currently there are venues making an effort to increase state efficiency (including workers’ compensation reform, tort reform, etc., in the Oklahoma Legislature) for professionals, including teachers. TPS must make efforts to increase efficiency. Recently TPS spent several thousands of dollars on a software program. It was shelved shortly after implementation. There is a process to eliminate waste, prioritize spending and reduce the cost of conducting agencies. To remain true to the voting taxpayers, consideration of efficiency must be raised. Generations of children are affected by these agenda items.”
Jacobs objected to borrowing millions of dollars with bonds.
“The economy is weak,” she said. Common sense and caution proves that a ‘pay as you go’ system is much less costly and much safer. Managing within TPS’ financial means would require planning ahead for purchases with a high rate of depreciation, keeping costs considerably lower.
“Instead TPS resorts to issuing bonds that add to the cost for the taxpayers along with the additional bond fees and interest. Agenda items cannot be amended. I read every agenda item then cast a vote.”
Jacobs said it would be a good idea for a student debate team to tackle the issue of school debt.
“Maybe the adults will learn from the children,” she said.
According to the TPS website, the goal is for every computer be replaced within five years. The borrowed funds will also pay for copiers, printers, scanners and fax machines. All principals and teachers would get a table device and library ebooks would be purchased. The bonds would pay for fire sprinkler systems in 11 school-owned buildings including Burroughs, Eliot, Lanier, Lee, Lombard, Project Accept at Roosevelt, Sequoyah, Springdale, Street School, Tulsa MET at Bryant and the Cherokee building.