BY MATT MONTGOMERY
State Representative Joe Dorman outlined his $500 million bond initiative for statewide school storm shelters to Chickasha Lions Club members Wednesday at Eduardo’s Restaurant.
Dorman’s bond initiative calls for a one-time $500 million bond that would allow for all Oklahoma schools to build storm shelters.
This $500 million bond initiative would take 160,000 signatures then a pass of the vote of the people.
Dorman said he tried to get his amendment to the bond proposal calling for a franchise tax to be enacted, but 57 members of the House voted against calling for a special session beyond tort reform.
“At that point we decided we would go forward with an initiative petition for fear the legislature would not take action,” he said. “So, we had the language to create a new constitutional amendment to allow the state to issue a one-time bond for use in school districts.”
He said the Constitution prohibits the state from using bonds to help other levels of government. He said that includes bond money from federal, state or municipalities of school districts.
Dorman said this $500 million bond would allow the state to collect those funds from the Office of Emergency Management into a separate account to be used by local school districts to use with matching dollars to help with the construction of storm shelters.
He said he also visited with authorities from the Federal Emergency Management Authority to allow matching dollars from the federal government.
Taking the $500 million with a 25 percent match of $125 million would be $625 million. Adding in a match from FEMA of a three to one ratio would take the total up to $2 billion to be used for local school districts, Dorman said.
He said the importance of this initiative is to change the current standards of how local school districts get their construction bond monies. With most of the school districts already tapped out on what they can draw from bond money, including the Chickasha School District, who’s at 98 percent, this would allow schools to do more construction, getting a waiver from county excise boards.
However, he said the problem with this is these school districts would have to raise their property taxes above what it is right now.
“Things like this are very emotional and I don’t feel it’s the right choice to ask the citizens to take on this new burden to do that,” Dorman said. “It would take a 60 percent vote to pass that bond and you are going to pay more locally.”
He said there is the possibility to use money from the franchise tax, which is currently not being collected. He said that money could be dedicated to this revenue stream and cover the bond deficit. That total would be $30 million to cover the debt service of the $500 million bond with the current rates.
Dorman said that would leave an extra $10 million coming in from the franchise tax.
He said if the bond initiative passes, he plans on running one last bill with the legislature before his term is up. This last bill would use that $10 million taken from the franchise tax to create a permanent rebate program in Oklahoma for individuals who qualify for assistance to build storm shelters at their home, mobile home, a university or in their communities.
Corporation pays the franchise tax and the franchise fee is paid for by state businesses, he said.
He said the ultimate goal is to have that idea spread across the state to help more individuals to be protected during the month of May.
Dorman said historically most tornadoes happen between 10 and 3 a.m. throughout the entire State of Oklahoma, except for one small portion of the tip of the panhandle.
“So everywhere in the State of Oklahoma is susceptible to tornadoes,” he said. “It could be an EF1 or an EF5.”
He reminded the Lions members that three years ago a tornado came right through Chickasha, killing one of his constituents.
“She was in the mobile home park across the street, she went to seek shelter in a building which was locked,” he said. “On the way back to her mobile home, the mobile home next to her, which was not tied down properly, was picked up by the winds and crushed her to death.”
He said he made a promise to her mother three years ago that he would work to find a way to help places like mobile home parks, and the second piece of this legislation would help keep that promise to her.