An Oklahoma lawmaker has filed legislation that would ask voters to decide whether to fund storm shelters in public schools.
The measure was filed Wednesday by Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs, a Democratic candidate for governor. It is similar to an initiative petition Dorman helped spearhead that called for a statewide referendum on a $500 million bond issue to pay for storm shelters in schools.
"Currently school districts have to fund the shelter space completely out of their local dollars, which means an increase in property taxes for those individuals that live in that school district," Dorman says. "This will provide a 75-25 match to allow the state to cover the bulk of the costs with those storm shelters, and keep the local property taxes low."
Supporters failed to get enough signatures to put the initiative petition on an election ballot this year. They have asked the state Supreme Court to give them more time to obtain the required number of signatures.
"I think it's a priority for the state to step in on this issue and help with these funds, because we have passed laws that limit how much the schools have the ability to charge through their taxation," Dorman says. "So if we're not providing them the opportunities to have the funds to build these shelters, it's the state's responsibility to come up with a suitable funding mechanism."
Funding school storm shelters was first proposed after a massive tornado struck two elementary schools in Moore in May, killing seven children and injuring dozens of others.
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