Forty-eight Oklahoma school districts sued the state superintendent, the state tax commission and the state treasurer at the end of last month in order to recover millions of dollars in state aid that they say was wrongly apportioned for the past 22 years. They are asking the state education department to recover “excessive’ funds that they claim were erroneously paid to other school districts during this time period and then require the state treasurer to then pay these funds over to them.
This situation arose from the state education department’s failure to apply a statutory 11% limit on the assessment of commercial and agricultural personal property in calculating state aid. The state tax commission apparently did not supply the education department with the data needed to make the proper calculations until 2014. In December 2014, the then superintendent of schools acknowledged the error, and the state distributed a special appropriation of $16.3 million to correct the distribution error for the 2015 fiscal year. The payments did not, however, go back and make up for improper distributions in prior years, and that is the relief that the petitioners are now seeking. Oklahoma City, the state’s largest school district, claims that it was unlawfully denied about $40 million that it, in joining with the other 47 school districts who also claim to have been short-changed, is now seeking to cover.