School Districts Face Loss in Oil & Gas Revenue

Education and taxation are two topics that the state legislature will consider in the spring. However, the issues are causing problems now, even for districts accustomed to huge oil and gas revenues.

Gas lines normally generate a lot of money for some school districts, but when production drops from those wells, so do tax revenues.

State Representative Wayne Christian of Center knows the problem well. "I've see it, of course Cushing,[and] over in Joaquin in Shelby County. Same situation across the entire district."

Since production at the Trawick Fields has been curtailed, Cushing schools are expecting to lose about 15 million dollars. It would have been over twice that if re-appraisals didn't offset some of the loss.

Taxpayer Danny White understands the dilemma. "None of us can predict the economy, even the experts have trouble doing that. I guess if we could, we could always be sure we have those shortfalls covered."

Even districts with gas pipelines can't always turn to the taxpayer. Most tax rates are close or have reached the limit placed on districts.

"We in our rural areas have run out of places to raise money. We are poor and so when they start doing any one item," said White. "And I think this is a red flag alert for Cushing, Joaquin and all those places where that issue of oil and gas has cost schools so much money."

So much that retired teachers aren't replaced and programs face cuts in their budgets.

State legislators will discuss school finance and taxation in a special session. Proposals will include removing the dependency on local revenue that districts can not always rely on.