A brief explanation of your property tax bill

An Oklahoma County property tax statement.

An Oklahoma County property tax statement.

It’s that time of year when homeowners receive their ad valorem (AKA property tax) bill. Or, if they pay through their mortgage company, they receive a statement. Unfortunately, I suspect the vast majority of us just shrug and move on. But for the amount of money we’re paying (usually thousands of dollars), we really should take five minutes and consider where our hard-earned dollars are going. As part of my continuing pursuit of civic literacy, here’s a breakdown of a typical property tax statement in Oklahoma County.

First of all, as background, property taxes are collected by your county treasurer. No higher level of government collects property tax. You don’t get a property tax bill from the federal government or the state government. But your one property tax bill from your county includes line items for several other local levels of government, in addition to the county, all of which have their own governing bodies.

Depending on where you live in the county, you will have different line items, because different homes within the county are in different school districts, cities, etc. And of course, your bill will fluctuate based on the assessed value of your home, a process far too complicated to get into here.

With that, and referencing the picture, here are a few comments on each line item found on a typical Oklahoma County property tax bill.

Oklahoma Countywide Schools: This money is small in comparison to the other line items. It goes into a pool for all school districts in Oklahoma County (of which there are two dozen, by the way). More to come on education at the end…

City-County Health: This line item is particularly interesting if you live in Oklahoma or Tulsa counties. Those two counties must fund their own city-county health departments, and they are funded through this line item on your property tax bill. The other 75 counties of Oklahoma are funded by the state. I have found that it is not uncommon to find Oklahoma City and Tulsa taxpayers funding programs that are implemented exclusively outside of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The health department is governed by a board appointed by the Mayor of Oklahoma City and the county commissioners.

Metro Library: Cities build the library buildings within their city limits with their own tax dollars, but the operations for those libraries are funded through this line item on your property tax bill. The library system is governed by a board appointed by mayors and county commissioners.

Oklahoma County: Most of the county’s budget comes from this line item, which is actually a relatively small percentage of your property tax bill.  However, in some ways that makes sense in a place like Oklahoma County, where most infrastructure is taken care of by cities. But, this line item does include the costs of the sheriff’s department. Ultimately, the elected county commissioners are responsible for these funds.

Metro Tech Career Tech: This item will vary depending on what career tech district you live in. Career tech is the modern phrase for what some people still call vo-tech. There are actually several districts in Oklahoma County, and (hardly anyone knows this) they actually each have an elected board that determines their budget, and therefore the size of this line item on your property tax bill.

City of Oklahoma City: This item will vary depending on what city you live in. Unlike all the other line items on your bill, this one is limited by law to strictly capital costs, not operations. In other words, this line item largely goes to roads and bridges maintained by the city. If you live in Oklahoma County, chances are you spend 90 percent of your automobile time driving on streets maintained by a city (as opposed to the state or county), and those streets are funded by this line item. The size of this line item is determined by the voters when they vote on multi-year bond issues. The last one approved by the voters of Oklahoma City was in 2007. When people say that the city should spend more money fixing up roads, they are ultimately saying that this line item on their property tax bill should grow larger (even if they don’t realize that’s what they’re saying).

Oklahoma City Schools: This item will vary depending on what school district you live in. As you see from the picture, it’s by far the largest item on your tax bill. It is not, however, the only source of funding for your local school district. School districts generally also receive funding from the state, and (in recent decades) the federal government. Your school district has an elected school board who helps determine the size of this item, limited by some legal constraints, and limited by the voters, who must approve bond issues for capital projects (just like at the city level).

I hope you found this informative, and I hope you made it this far. You write a big check every year for property taxes, and you ought to know where the money goes.

An Explanation of Judicial Races in Oklahoma County

The map of judicial divisions within District 7 / Oklahoma County.  Click on the map to enlarge it.

The map of judicial divisions within District 7 / Oklahoma County. Click on the map to enlarge it.

If you live in the Oklahoma City metro area, you are seeing signs for judicial candidates on every corner.   I am convinced there aren’t five people that understand how our judges are elected.   And I was frustrated that even though I am a senator and an attorney, I felt out of the loop, too.   Today, I have changed that, and now I’m helping you.   Increasing civic participation is a passion of mine. If you live in Oklahoma County, please read this and feel free to share it.

 

At the higher levels of our state’s judicial system, such as the state supreme court, judges are considered for retention on your statewide ballot, but they are not opposed by other candidates.   At the district level, however, people actually run competitively, and candidates can oppose sitting judges. It is worth noting that candidates for judge do not run under an affiliation with any political party.   They also do not run to be criminal or civil judges.   They merely run to be judges, and what type of cases they handle is decided after the election.   It is also worth noting that there is so much work in Oklahoma County that there are also non-elected “special judges” who are appointed by the elected judges.

 

The state is divided into judicial districts, and Oklahoma County has the same boundaries as District 7. Judges and district attorneys are state officials, and their constituencies are the districts, not the counties.   It is just for convenience that Oklahoma County has the same boundaries as District 7.   In other parts of the state, districts cover multiple counties.

 

District 7 / Oklahoma County has 15 elected district judge “offices”.   All 15 district judge offices face the voters at the same time every four years. Seven of the 15 face the voters of the entire district / county, and therefore are known as “at large” district judge offices.   The other eight are elected by smaller portions of the district / county.   And here it gets a little complicated.   The district / county is divided into four “divisions” – 1, 2, 3, and 4.   Each division has two district judge “offices” that are elected by the voters of the entire division.   So, therefore, a voter in District 7 / Oklahoma County theoretically has the ability to weigh in on nine total district judge offices.   In practice, because many candidates run unopposed, a voter will see a far smaller number of offices on their ballot.

 

Just to add one more wrinkle: Every county in Oklahoma is additionally represented by one office called an associate district judge.   That office is also a four-year term on the same schedule.

 

It is important to keep straight the difference between the words “district”, “division” and “office”.   These words are all used here to refer to very specific things.

 

The map of the divisions in District 7 / Oklahoma County is shown with this post.

 

Here’s how it breaks down:

 

All voters in the district / county can vote on the seven “at large” district judges – known as offices 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, and 15.

 

Voters in division 1 of the district / county also vote on offices 1 and 9.

 

Voters in division 2 of the district / county also vote on offices 3 and 10.

 

Voters in division 3 of the district / county also vote on offices 2 and 11.

 

Voters in division 4 of the district / county also vote on offices 4 and 12.

 

The previously mentioned one elected office known as an associate district judge is considered by all the voters of Oklahoma County.

 

Ten sitting district judges that filed in April of this year were not opposed by any candidate and were automatically re-elected for another four years.   In two cases, the sitting judge is retiring, and in both cases, two candidates filed in each open office.   In three cases, the sitting judge is opposed by one person.   Here is how the 15 district judge offices and the one associate district judge office break down:

 

Office 1: Aletia Timmons and Joel Porter are competing to fill this open office.   Only voters in division 1 will be able to vote.

 

Office 2: Thomas Prince and K. Williams are competing for this seat.   Thomas Prince is the incumbent.   Only voters in division 3 will be able to vote.

 

Office 3: Donald Deason and Orenthal Denson are competing for this seat.   Donald Deason is the incumbent.   Only voters in division 2 will be able to vote.

 

Office 4: Bryan Dixon was elected without opposition to another term in this office that represents division 4.

 

Office 5: Patricia Parrish was elected without opposition to another term in this “at large” office that represents the entire district / county.

 

Office 6: Timothy Henderson was elected without opposition to another term in this “at large” office that represents the entire district / county.

 

Office 7: Cindy Truong was elected without opposition to another term in this “at large” office that represents the entire district / county.

 

Office 8: Glenn Jones was elected without opposition to another term in this “at large” office that represents the entire district / county.

 

Office 9: Bernard Jones was elected without opposition to another term in this office that represents division 1.

 

Office 10: Bill Graves was elected without opposition to another term in this office that represents division 2.

 

Office 11: Barbara Swinton was elected without opposition to another term in this office that represents division 3.

 

Office 12: Lisa Davis was elected without opposition to another term in this office that represents division 4.

 

Office 13: Roger Stuart and Amy Palumbo are competing for this seat.   Roger Stuart is the incumbent.   All voters of the district / county will be able to vote on this “at large” office.

 

Office 14: Ray Elliott was elected without opposition to another term in this “at large” office that represents the entire district / county.

 

Office 15: Jarrod Stevenson and Don Andrews are competing to fill this open office.   All voters of the district / county will be able to vote on this “at large” office.

 

Associate District Judge: Richard Kirby was elected without opposition to another term in this office that represents the entire county.

 

I hope you found this helpful as you begin to make an educated decision on Tuesday, November 4th.   One final note – You don’t have to examine the map to figure out what your ballot will look like on Tuesday, November 4th.   You can go to www.elections.ok.gov, click on the Online Voter Tool, click Search Now, and follow the prompts for personal information.   Under Sample Ballots, you will see an example of what your ballot will look like on November 4th.

Senator Holt talks about cities on OETA

Senator David Holt appears in a recent piece from “Oklahoma News Report” on OETA talking about the growing influence and effectiveness of city governments.   Senator Holt was a firsthand observer of the Oklahoma City renaissance during five years as chief of staff to the mayor.  The OETA piece can be watched here.

Our Crisis of Voter Apathy

I’ve been growing increasingly concerned as I watch falling voter turnout around the country.
Turnout for the all-important GOP runoff for Oklahoma City’s next U.S. House member dropped 30 percent from the same situation four years ago.  This is happening all over.  We need to start talking about falling voter turnout like the crisis that it is.  If we continue to check out, this experiment will fail.
Policymakers, media and voters all have a role to play in addressing our crisis of civic participation. Elections need to be streamlined and more accessible, media needs to cover civic life again, and citizens have to step up.

Here’s a report this week from KOCO-TV where I talk about these issues.

Senator Holt Receives “Child Abuse Prevention Leadership Award”

Senator Holt addressing the Parent Promise audience, and holding his award with wife Rachel

Senator Holt addressing the Parent Promise audience, and holding his award with wife Rachel

Senator David Holt has received the “Child Abuse Prevention Leadership Award” from Parent Promise in recognition of his efforts to protect children during the 2014 legislative session.   Parent Promise is a joint effort of the Exchange Club and Prevent Child Abuse Oklahoma.

This marks the fourth major award that Senator Holt has received this calendar year.   Senator Holt’s other recent awards include:

Oklahoma Sunshine Award – Presented by Freedom of Information Oklahoma for Senator Holt’s commitment to transparency in government.

Guardian Award – Presented by the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women in recognition of Senator Holt’s work on behalf of women and children.

Legislative Champion Award – Presented by the National MS Society for Senator Holt’s work on behalf of the multiple sclerosis community.

 

 

“Rising Star”

From "The Daily Rundown" on July 25, 2014

From “The Daily Rundown” on July 25, 2014

I was honored to be named one of two Republican “Rising Stars” in the state of Oklahoma by Chuck Todd of NBC News.   You can watch the clip here.

Here is more coverage of the announcement:

KFOR

The Okie

McCarville Report

 

 

“Work of the heavy lifters often unsung”

Scott Carter of The Journal Record has a recent editorial praising Senator David Holt’s work this session in the Oklahoma Legislature.   It can be read here.

 

“Domestic violence law could save lives”

The Oklahoman recently editorialized in favor of Senator David Holt’s legislation with Rep. Kay Floyd to address Oklahoma’s domestic violence crisis.   The editorial about HB 2526 can be read here.

Op-ed by Senator Holt in The Oklahoman

Senator David Holt recently had an op-ed in The Oklahoman discussing the progress of government transparency at the Capitol this year.   It can be read here.    Senator Holt was awarded the “Sunshine Award” earlier this year for his work promoting government transparency.

 

Sine Die

The Oklahoma Legislature has adjourned for the year (“sine die”, in the lingo of the Capitol).    I am pleased by some things, displeased by others; that is usually the way it goes.    I am proud of the (so far) eight pieces of legislation I shepharded into law.    If you want to catch up on what you might have missed these past four months, check out our “In the News” page. 

Thank you for your support and for the honor of representing you in the Senate!

Senator Holt on “The People’s Business”

UntitledSenator David Holt recently appeared on OETA’s “The People’s Business.”

You can watch the episode here.

Guardian Award

With my family and Commission Chair Lou Kohlman.

With my family and Commission Chair Lou Kohlman.

I was deeply honored today to have received the 2014 “Guardian Award” from the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women.

They specifically cited our bills this session protecting victims of domestic violence and strengthening the Sex Offender Registry.
I said earlier this year that a recognition I was given for government transparency was the most meaningful I could receive.   I may have to consider that a close second now.   This award today is deeply humbling.   There is nothing we could do that is more important than serving the women and children of Oklahoma.
Thank you to the Commission and especially Chair Lou Kohlman.

“Applaud State Sen. David Holt”

The Journal Record today has an editorial praising Senator David Holt for his transparency legislation this session.  It can be read here.

Governor signs major transparency bill

The Open Meetings Act requires public bodies to post notice of meetings and hold votes in public.    It is critically important to maintaining a transparent and accountable government, but the number one complaint about it has been the inability to enforce it.   Today, Governor Mary Fallin signed SB 1497, my bill with Rep. Elise Hall that puts into statute the ability of citizens to enforce the Open Meetings Act in the courts and recover attorney fees.    This is a major victory for government transparency and I especially want to commend Governor Fallin for her leadership today.   This session, she has established a solid record of support for government transparency through her approval of several major transparency bills, and I do not think that should go unnoticed.

Here is coverage from The Tulsa World.

Senator Holt on OETA’s Stateline

Senator David Holt recently talked about the effects of legalized gambling in Oklahoma on OETA’s Stateline.    You can watch the episode here.