Land Board increases public school payments

Idaho’s public schools are poised to receive a nearly $4 million funding boost during the upcoming budget year thanks to an increase in state endowment payments.

Idaho Department of LandsOn Tuesday morning at the Statehouse, the state Land Board voted unanimously to increase distributions for public schools for 2016-17 by $3.966 million. Public schools are the biggest beneficiaries of Land Board endowment payments, which come via investments and management of state lands.

Members of the Idaho Endowment Fund Investment Board recommended the increase, writing that every fund has a reserve balance in excess of five years and that a record $111 million in presold timber revenues guarantees income over the next three year.

“Record earnings over the last two fiscal years from the Idaho Department of Lands’ active management of more than 2.4 million acres of state endowment trust lands, along with healthy 12 percent returns for the last five fiscal years on $1.8 billion of invested land revenue managed by the EFIB contributed to the increases,” state officials wrote in a news release issues Tuesday.

Public schools endowment payments reached $47.7 million in 2001-2002, but decreased to $31.3 million a year from 2010-2015. Past Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna fought unsuccessfully to increase distribution payments to $36.9 million two years ago.

The new endowment distributions for K-12 schools represent a 12.1 percent increase over current budget year levels, bringing endowment payments to $36.7 million. But those payments account for only a small fraction of the larger public school funding picture. The state’s overall K-12 general fund public school budget totals $1.48 billion this year.

Total distributions from the Land Board for all beneficiaries in 2016-17 will reach $63.2 million, representing a 11.8 percent increase.

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Gov. Butch Otter

Other beneficiaries of Land Board endowment payments include Idaho’s colleges and universities, state hospitals, the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind, veterans’ homes and the State Juvenile Corrections Center.

Members of the Land Board include Gov. Butch Otter, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney and State Controller Brandon Woolf.