There's a major debate on whether to give the state’s extra $140 million in budget cuts to teachers. But State Auditor Gary Jones says there would already be more money for education if more counties were taxing property owners fairly.
“What we are saying is taxes should be fair from county to county,” said Jones.
Jones maintains that hundreds of millions of dollar in property taxes aren't being collected because properties are being evaluated with decades-old data, coming from decades-old computer software. He says the real loser is school funding.
“The counties that aren't collecting what they should be. That's being subsidized by money that's coming into the state coffers and the school funding formula,” Jones told News 9 from a national conference for State Auditors, Controllers and Treasures.
The goal is to have all 77 Oklahoma counties using new audit numbers to assess property values.
Jones says currently 61 counties are using new numbers, like Oklahoma County, which collects around 94 cents of every dollar owed.
“In some counties that barely over 60%,” said Jones.
Getting all counties caught up won't happen fast. There's a 5% annual cap put on property tax increases.
“It won’t come up to a fair cash value in our lifetime,” said Jones.
Jones says legislation that would give counties new computer software to help better determine property values and help with collections has been voted down for years.
State lawmakers have said no to the $5 million to $6 million annual cost.