When many of House District 31 residents, who also live in Logan County, received their new property tax assessments last April, they noticed a refreshing sight. Their property assessment stayed the same or may have even dropped.
This is because the Logan County Assessor has been embarking on a thorough multi-year process of streamlining and standardizing the criteria used to assess property. It is her goal to put in place fair criteria so that everyone’s assessment can be easily explained and fairly applied. This has brought to an end the years of ever-increasing property tax assessments that have left so many Logan County residents frustrated and dismayed.
So you can only imagine the surprise and outrage of those who live in the Crescent, Coyle and Edmond school districts a few days ago when they received their property tax bills and noted an increase in their bill even though the assessment had not increased and they did not expect an increase in the actual amount due.
During the past few days, my office has received multiple inquiries from local residents who are very upset because they didn’t expect this increase.
How did this happen?
Over the course of the past years, the voters in these school districts have approved bond issues. When a public school district issues a bond, a new tax is placed upon the voter’s property, regardless of the fact that the County Assessor did not increase his valuation.
Unfortunately, many of those who are upset about the increase may not have voted in the tax increase election simply because they didn’t know about it. Invariably, the elections take place during the winter when few people realize that it is even occurring.
One voter expressed his displeasure with the fact that while he votes in Guthrie, his home is within the Crescent school district. It didn’t make sense to him that he would need to drive into Guthrie to vote on a Crescent bond issue on a winter day when most people didn’t even realize an election was taking place.
All of this leads to the fact that large property tax increases are usually approved by a very small percentage of the electorate.
I believe there are very few good excuses for not voting. It is important for individuals to stay informed and keep track of these issues. But it is also imperative for the Legislature to significantly reduce the number of days upon which elections can take place. Local government entities are notorious for picking low turnout election dates when they can push through a tax increase. The outcome of these elections are easily manipulated by the direct beneficiaries of the tax increase.
Even now, it appears that Oklahoma County government is rapidly advancing a large, proposed sales tax increase that will be considered on a March election day when few are expected to vote.
We must bring this practice to an end!
Local and school board elections and all tax increase attempts should take place simultaneously with the major election dates upon which most of the electorate votes. This would ensure that many more voters have a voice in these matters and would allow voters to have a referendum on the politicians who propose the tax increase on the exact same day the tax is considered. If the voters don’t like the proposal, they can remove the politician from office on the same day they defeat the tax.
It seems this type of proposal is considered by the Legislature almost every year. I certainly believe we should approve it and start to whittle down the number of days during which elections can be held.
Until then, I absolutely encourage area residents to stay engaged on policy issues at all levels of government. No one should have to pay a tax increase that they didn’t even know they had a vote on. A tax increase should never go into law simply because a micro-segment of the population says it should.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at email@example.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.