OKLAHOMA CITY (March 22, 2012) – Claims by school lobbyists that a freeze on property taxes paid by senior citizens would cut school funding are simply false, the legislator who sponsored the measure said today.
“We ought to expect more from those who speak for our schools than outright falsehoods,” said state Rep. David Dank (R-Oklahoma City), whose House Joint Resolution 1001 would have allowed the people to vote to freeze property taxes owed by seniors at current levels for as long as they own their homes.
“The head of the state school board association actually alleged on Tuesday that this would cut school funding,” Dank said. “That is simply a lie. This measure would not cut one penny from any school or county budget anywhere in the state. All it would do would be to give Oklahoma’s 600,000 seniors assurance that their property taxes would not increase while they struggle to remain solvent and in their homes.”
HJR1001 was amended in the Senate committee to simply raise the current income level that already qualifies some seniors for a property tax freeze. That action came after school lobbyists claimed that the full freeze for all seniors would cut their budgets, even though it was evident that no actual reductions were involved.
“This is in no way, shape or form a tax cut,” Dank said of the measure. “It is bogus to claim that it is. The people who claim to speak for schools ought to have more regard for the truth.”
Dank said the property tax freeze for seniors was promoted by pleas from many seniors who are hard-pressed to live on fixed incomes with steadily rising utility, fuel and prescription bills, while also facing annual property tax increases. In some cases, he said, seniors facing medical costs or the need to place a spouse in a nursing home may be forced to sell their homes because of larger yearly property tax bills.
“You could give the school bureaucrats all the money in the world and they’d still want more,” he said. “We have a grossly inefficient public school system with far too many small districts. We have also seen superintendents get big pay raises even in the worst of the recession and now we are hearing them complain about a tax cut that isn’t a tax cut at all.”
Dank said he was especially concerned by statements by the head of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, who was quoted as saying that the measure as originally written would cause an “erosion of the tax base” and result in “another reduction in funding for schools.”
“Aren’t the schools he claims to represent teaching basic arithmetic?” Dank asked. “One hundred percent is still 100 percent, even when it does not become 105 percent. This resolution was written specifically to hold schools and counties harmless. They would still receive the same amount each year in ad valorem revenues, plus any increases from higher valuations of property that are owned by those under 65.”
Dank said Oklahoma can remain an attractive location for retirees by being fair to seniors, or it can drive them out with excessive taxes.
“Every senior who is forced out of his or her home by more and more bills from the taxman represents a dead loss to Oklahoma,” he said. “Doesn’t it make more sense to help them remain independent and in their homes as productive seniors than to drive them into nursing homes or assisted living centers because they can no longer afford the tax bill?”
Dank praised state Sens. Steve Russell and Greg Treat for their defense of the measure in the Finance Committee, and urged senators to reconsider restoring the full senior freeze before they vote on it on the floor.
“Someone needs to tell the tax hogs that enough is enough, and that you cannot hound people literally into the grave without a reaction,” Dank said.