OKLAHOMA - The Oklahoma Democratic party is calling for a full and complete audit to determine exactly what is going on with our money, accusing Republicans in the executive branch of playing hide and seek with public school money.
This all comes after a Tulsa World article claiming an extra $43 million was just discovered in the 1017 fund, a revolving fund for education.
State auditor Gary Jones is part of the Board of Equalization.
The board certifies the numbers prepared by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services for the budget each year.
Those numbers were decided at Tuesday’s board meeting, and the Jones woke up Wednesday morning to the Tulsa World article about the extra money that was discovered.
“If this information was available yesterday, why was it not presented to us in the board meeting yesterday?” Jones asked. “I am concerned about it. You know, wondering why it happened. Also, brings up the question: are there other numbers that aren’t correct?”
“This is not new money that has been discovered. And, instead, what we have is a difference in the way we talk about cash flow issues with a particular account,” said state superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
Hofmeister would not say whether the State Board of Education knew about this money, only calling it a difference of opinion.
“We do have an opinion that is slightly different than another agency, OMES, on the 1017 fund. But, we’re all coming from, I think, a very honest perspective of disagreement over a technical way of interpreting the cash flow,” Hofmeister said.
“We need to make sure the numbers we have are accurate. If there are any inconsistencies, it should be brought to the attention of people that are in the position of making decisions. And, we, as the Board of Equalization, were making a decision yesterday. We should’ve known,” Jones said.
A spokesperson for OMES told NewsChannel 4 they have always known about this money and that this is not money that would be considered by the Board of Equalization.
He also said they informed the State Department of Education about this money weeks ago.
OSDE Executive Director of Communications Steffie Corcoran and OMES Director of Public Affairs John Estus made the following joint statement:
"The Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services are working together regarding the 1017 fund. OSDE and OMES both acknowledge the fund has not yet failed but could fail later if revenues decline dramatically. Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister is less optimistic than OMES that the fund will escape failure this year.
There is no newly found money in the 1017 fund. Time will determine whether the fund is solvent or fails this fiscal year. OSDE and OMES are collaborating to get the best information possible to decision makers in schools and throughout state government in the midst of a significant budget shortfall and ongoing volatility in revenue collections.
It is important to emphasize that OSDE's concerns are not limited to the 1017 fund. School districts need to prepare for a deepening of the General Revenue failure and a failure in another account funded entirely by oil taxes."