Claremore Daily Progress

January 17, 2014

Claremore school district gets state aid adjustments

Mistake in allocated funds questioned

Mark Friedel
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

Claremore school officials have recently questioned mid-year adjustments in state aid for the district after finding an unexpected drop of more than $300,000.
Superintendent Michael McClaren said he expected to see a reduction of about $225,000 from the initial 2014 allocation because of weighted student numbers declining within the first nine weeks of the school year. When he and Claremore Schools Finance Officer Anne Wade discovered the reports displayed a $600,000 reduction, they knew there was a problem.
“We expected somewhat of a shortfall, but not that much,” said McClaren. “When (Anne) Wade and myself noticed an error with the reports, we wanted the decrease in funding clarified. No one would have questioned it if we hadn’t questioned it.”
McClaren said the problem was brought to Rogers County Assessor Scott Marsh, who determined that there had been a mistake made either by the state tax commission or excise board. He said factors somehow became lost in the transportation process from the assessor’s office to the excise board to the tax commission and then state department. 
“Marsh’s office was cited by the tax commission as being out of compliance for not assessing up to their appropriate ratio of 11 percent, but apparently they were. Scott advised me late last week that his office found and made the corrections,” he said. “His office was very diligent in going in and looking at the errors.”
Oklahoma school districts are notified of adjustments made to initial state aid allocations in late December or early January every year. The initial state aid allocations are usually received in July.
State aid is adjusted between July and January for reasons including changes in student enrollment during the first nine weeks and changes in local tax revenues.
The formula used for state aid also includes differences in student demographics.  McClaren said Claremore schools’ $225,000 shortfall was based on the district’s disadvantaged student numbers and a decrease in the overall student count (enrollment).
“For each student that transfers out of the district, we lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,100. Our student count is down by about 40 kids, that’s about 2-3 youngsters per grade level,” he said. 
McClaren said if corrections are not made by today (Thursday), showing the $375,000, mistakenly not allocated in state aid adjustments for Claremore, the district may not see the funds until February.
“If we don’t receive payment until February, that’s OK. As long as corrections are made before the end of the fiscal year on June 30,” McClaren said.