A rural school district that has borne the financial brunt of a paperwork error is suing the Oklahoma Tax Commission for almost $733,000.
Regardless of how the “clerical error” occurred, the lawsuit filed Monday with the Oklahoma Supreme Court says, it “is indisputably not the fault of the district, the CareerTech or even the taxpayer.”
The Mountain View-Gotebo School District is a small district of about 240 students in Kiowa County in southwestern Oklahoma.
The district became entangled in the state's law regarding tax breaks to manufacturing and power-plant companies last year, when the state Tax Commission refused to reimburse Kiowa County for $733,000 in property tax exemptions given to a wind power plant in the county.
Tony Mastin, administrator of the Tax Commission, said previously the county had missed a key deadline set forth in state law and that there was little the Tax Commission could do to resolve the issue.
About $400,000 of that reimbursement was supposed to go to Mountain View-Gotebo schools, and it accounts for a quarter of the district's budget. Superintendent Andy Evans has been working with the state for months, trying to get the funding back for his school. He said a lawsuit would be the last resort.
Joining in the lawsuit is the Caddo-Kiowa County Career Technology Board, which also lost funding because of the error, and two individual taxpayers from Kiowa County.
“The urgency of this controversy cannot be overstated,” the lawsuit states. “With the school year beginning, there is a great risk that the education of many Kiowa County students, both at the District and the CareerTech, face major disruption.”
A spokeswoman for the Tax Commission said on Monday the lawsuit has been received by the agency but declined to comment further.
The $733,000 is the property taxes due on a wind power plant in Kiowa County owned by Horizon Wind Energy.
The Houston-based company received a five-year property tax exemption from the state of Oklahoma.