The Norman Transcript

Opinion

October 11, 2012

State questions shift property tax burden

NORMAN — Two of Oklahoma’s six state questions on the Nov. 6 ballot involve property taxes. Like anything else in government tax and finance, the devil is in the details.

State Question 766, endorsed by the Norman Chamber of Commerce this week, provides a large tax cut to some utilities, railroads and other corporations. It also overturns a Supreme Court-ordered new tax on intangible property for many Oklahomans.

It will cost local governments, primarly schools, an estimated $65 million in lost revenue. Schools and some counties are speaking out against SQ 766 and SQ 758.

SQ 758 would reduce the cap on the maximum annual tax valuation increase from 5 percent to 3 percent for residences and farm land. Voters are hard pressed to turn that one down, but it may actually result in a tax increase for many property owners.

The real winners are property owners in areas where homes are increasing in value more than 3 percent. Ironically, those are typically in suburbs like Norman that have good schools. Oklahomans living in less prosperous areas could end up paying more, since some obligations like court judgments and bond issues are fixed.

Millage rates could be raised just to meet county budgets, and this would raise property taxes on most homeowners and small businesses. That merely shifts the burden to properties that are not increasing in value.

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