McGirt fallout could hit public schools

Budget & Tax

Curtis Shelton | March 24, 2021

McGirt fallout could hit public schools

Curtis Shelton

A tax protest brought by the Oneta Power company in Broken Arrow is once again bringing the Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma to the forefront. In a dispute over property taxes, Oneta Power is questioning whether Wagoner County should be able to levy taxes since they are on tribal land.

Most of the McGirt discussion to date has focused on criminal cases. This one is different. If the Oneta Power company were to prevail, it would call into question a large amount of property tax money that primarily benefits school districts.

Broken Arrow Public Schools was highlighted as the district receiving the most funding from Wagoner County property taxes. Currently, Broken Arrow receives $87 million in local and county dollars. However, not all of this comes from Wagoner County, as Broken Arrow also sits in Tulsa County.

Tulsa County may not be immune to the impacts of this case. The McGirt ruling applied only to Creek land, but some are arguing it may impact land of four other tribes—the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole nations. That would affect most of eastern Oklahoma, or about 43 percent of the state and approximately 1.9 million people.

State Department of Education data show that 42 percent of new revenue received by Oklahoma school districts came from local and county sources. That’s $3.1 billion. McGirt uncertainty now puts nearly half of that revenue in jeopardy.

Curtis Shelton Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton

Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

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