by Frank Volpe
Dear Fellow Oklahomans:
Nationally, we rank 49th in teacher pay and 48th in education, however, with 600 miles and counting we are #2, soon to be #1 in “pay as you go” turnpikes. THIS IS BACKWARDS.
As we prayerfully prepare for another legislative session we cannot help but think of our schools, teachers and students and the fiscal challenges our school districts face. About 65 percent of your property tax funds the public school system. Since the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority does not pay property tax, for every home and business the OTA acquires, public school funds are lost, further worsening our current budget crisis.
For areas with a smaller property tax base, through “equalization,” the more densely populated areas carry the bill for these districts. Thereby, if a rural area experiences a decrease in property ownership, other factors unchanged, there will be an additional tax burden on our state’s citizens.
The OTA has the power to obtain your property. Per Title 69, they can “acquire in the name of the Authority by purchase or otherwise,… in such manner as it may deem proper,… by exercise of condemnation, … as it may deem necessary.”
The “Authority” is a group of six unelected appointees with virtually no oversight. Since their inception in 1947, they have never had a state audit. The OTA has its own revenue stream, so our state Legislature does not exercise the “power of the purse” over their budget. Oklahoma citizens have no representation on the OTA and the “Authority’s” actions are unaccountable to the taxpayer, yet they managed to receive $44 million in excise taxes last year. (Incidentally, this equates to about $1000 per teacher.)
Call your state senator and representative and ask these questions:
— With the current turnpike expansion plan, what is the estimated loss in property tax revenue to the affected school districts and where will the money come from?
— How am I represented on the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority board?
— Why do tolls continue to go up? When does OTA plan to pay off the Turnpike?
— When will the OTA receive a state audit?
— With 600+ miles of toll roads, where is the proven need for the turnpike expansion?
Go to STOPOTA.COM, and select the TAKE ACTION link, your financial support will help your fellow Oklahomans defend property rights.
Thank You, and May the Blessings of Liberty Be Upon You.
Note: Frank Volpe is a retired Naval Commander, he is a defense and business consultant and a former U.S. congressional candidate for the fifth district of Oklahoma. In addition to his time in service, he holds an M.B.A. from St. Gregory’s and a B.S. in Applied Physics from Jacksonville University. This essay first appeared in the February 2017 print edition of The City Sentinel.