Millions owed to schools in late property taxes

For the past week, Principal Caleb Starr has been meeting with teachers, gearing up for the first day of class at Hale High School in Tulsa Public Schools.

Getting ready isn't just meeting with teachers, it's getting prepared for the affects of a tight budget.

"The number one factor that helps a kid learn is a teacher and so when we don't have money we can't hire as many teachers as we'd like to and so class sizes get bigger, classroom management becomes more of an issue," said Caleb Starr.

Schools are funded through taxes. A majority of property taxes go to public schools. When people don't pay up, schools don't get their money.

The 2NEWS Investigators have been following delinquent property taxes for 18 months and just for last year $12.4 million are still owed in back taxes in Tulsa County, about 60 percent of that goes to schools.

So when you do the math, $7.4 million that's supposed to go schools isn't getting there and making it worse, the same entity that pays teachers owes millions in taxes, we're talking about the State of Oklahoma.

The State of Oklahoma owes $2.2 million to Tulsa County in delinquent property taxes.
The fund that pays the taxes doesn't have enough money in it.

"You just kind of shake your head and go okay so we don't have money to pay our property taxes, and we don't have money for teachers, where's it at?" said Starr.

Lawmakers have requested senators have an interim study on the issue this fall.

The plan is to find funding so the state isn't late on its taxes.

It's certainly something Starr would like to see.
In the meantime, "Just trying to maximize every dollar we have," said Starr.

We contacted the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee to see if he plans on bringing up the tax issue this fall. He said he'll decide next month.

The 2NEWS Investigators will continue to follow this issue.

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