OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that grants a one-year exemption from penalties for school districts that have excess carryover dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic won final passage in the House of Representatives on Friday evening. Without this change, some Oklahoma school districts would have been subject to fines for having too large of a carryover balance.
House Bill 3964, by State Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, prohibits the State Department of Education from assessing a penalty against a school district that exceeds the general fund carryover limits for the current fiscal year.
The bill as amended by the Senate passed the House with a vote of 84-1 and the Senate with a vote of 44-2. It now moves to the governor’s desk to await his signature to become law.
“With the litany of changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts are experiencing a decrease in expenses compared to the usual school year,” Caldwell said. “With lower transportation costs and utility savings as an example, many districts may have larger carryover funds than normal. It is important that we allow our schools to retain these dollars without a penalty so they can utilize them next year as they continue to adapt to any necessary changes.”
Caldwell said it is prudent for schools to have some carryover funding to respond to mid-year adjustments and emergencies such as happened this year. If districts exceed limits placed in statute for two years in a row, however, they are assessed a penalty from the State Department of Education. Caldwell said this regulation is in place because these funds are taxpayer dollars, and they are expected to be used for the benefit of students in the form of teacher pay, classroom expenses and other needs.
“This is an extraordinary year, however,” Caldwell said. “I appreciate my colleagues in the House and Senate for agreeing to give our districts some latitude with this funding this year.”