Oklahoma utility companies are currently protesting the amount of taxes that
they must pay. The dispute came about because of the difference between what
utility companies and other commercial properties and other entities such as
railroads and airlines must pay. The utility companies originally protested all
of the taxes that they had to pay. They are now protesting the percentage of
taxes that they must pay above what the commercial properties pay. The money is
currently going into escrow accounts until a decision over the taxes has been
made. According to Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates, the protests could affect
more than $63 million in funding for schools and counties across the state. The
money will not be allocated into the schools until the dispute has been settled.
A large group of Oklahoma superintendents has been meeting with the big four
utility companies (Public Service Company of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Natural Gas,
Oklahoma Gas and Electric and Southwestern Bell) to try to reach a compromise.
The most recent meeting occurred on Monday, November 28, 1994. At that meeting
Marvin Stokes, Superintendent of Byng Schools, proposed that the utility
companies be assessed at 25 mills and that commercial properties be assessed at
20 mills. This would generate around $100 million in new revenue for Oklahoma
schools. Eugene Chitwood, Okemah County Assessor, suggested that public service
companies be assessed at 23 mills and that commercial properties be assessed at
15-19 mills. This would generate around $50 million in new revenue for Oklahoma
schools. The utility companies are currently paying 22.85 mills and commercial
properties are paying 11 mills. Private advalorem property is assessed at 11-14
mills. The utility companies were receptive to the suggestions. They do not
care if their taxes are increased as long as commercial properties are assessed
at a higher level as well. Another idea proposed to the... [continues]
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