Resolution may reduce property tax

Lawton_A lot of Oklahomans are tired of their property taxes rising each year, and they're voicing their concerns to state lawmakers.  The Senate has passed a resolution that could change all of that, though.  Currently, the rate is capped at 5%, but voters may get a chance to lower it to 3%.

For example, if a property owner owed $750 in property taxes last year, the tax would only go up about $23 this year, instead of $38 - a savings of about $15 under the new proposal.  A 2% reduction may not sound like a lot of money, but Cache Public Schools Superintendent Randy Batt estimates it would cost his district about $100,000 next year.

School districts receive close to 80% of county ad valorem taxes.  "There's other things in there to protect the taxpayers," says Batt.  "I think the 5 % rule is a good compromise.  I think if you lower it, and cut down the schools' money again, without other state appropriations coming to make up that difference, you're basically - and I'm an educator - and you're hurting kids."

Lawton home builder Steve Barnes says the homes in the area are selling at record levels because of the increase in construction supplies and materials.  That, Barnes says, automatically means higher property tax collections.  He says lowering the annual rate hike would only be fair.  "We just continue to think we can add it on to the cost of the house, and whoever buys the home can just continue to absorb this cost," he says.  "The fact is, the current assessment is unfair."

Comanche County Commissioner Ron Kirby says he's okay with lowering the rate cap to 3% to alleviate the burden, but there's a catch.  "The problem I have is the legislature is in a hurry to do this, and they don't have the source to make up the funding for the counties, but more importantly the schools," he says.

Kirby's solution for state funding in a time of a budget deficit:  tap into the rainy day fund.  He says it's the people's money, and should be used to fund tax decreases like this proposal.  The resolution still has a long way to go, and most Senators voted along party lines - Republicans for the cut, and Democrats against it.  It must still clear the House and be signed by the Governor before it's put on the ballot.

Count on 7News to track its progress.