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Oklahoma Seeks Assessment Conformity

by Bob Phillips, Dallas, March 2014

 

After 35 counties failed an Oklahoma Tax Commission performance audit, officials are pushing for new legislation to promote assessment conformity throughout the state.

 

The Problem

 

In the early 1990s, a tax reform bill earmarked funds to give all counties a Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system. However, it didn't work well and most counties set it aside and went back to traditional ways of generating property values. The few counties that made the system work were the more wealthy ones that bought their own computers and software.

 

No Quick Fix

 

Lawmakers are expected to propose a new all-in-one computer system to streamline the assessment system throughout the state. However, a new computer system alone may not be enough to achieve conformity.

 

It could end up taking years to bring the smaller, rural counties that are grossly undervalued into compliance. That's because Oklahoma has a 5% cap on non-homestead properties and a 3% cap on residences. So even as properties increase in value, their assessment can't go up more than the cap each year.

 

Impact on School Funding

 

When property values are artificially low in some counties, Oklahoma’s school aid formula recognizes that they have a low tax base so they get a disproportionate higher share of state funding.

 

In theory, higher property values would bring in even more revenue for public schools. But some officials don't think it will work that way.

 

Ada Superintendent Dr. Pat Harrison told the Ada News, "The way the school funding formula works is that if there is an increase in local taxes, it results in a decrease of state funding."

 

Since 2008, Oklahoma has cut education funding more than any other state, according to Dr. Harrison. He believes equalizing the state's property assessment system will be a wash for public schools.