With lottery dividends down from record levels, public schools didn’t hit the jackpot in 2015, but cashed in a winning ticket.
On Tuesday, Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson and Gov. Butch Otter handed Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra a ceremonial check for $28 million for public schools. That’s down about 8.5 percent from the record $30.6 million dividend public schools received one year ago.
In July 2013, Idaho schools hauled in $30.1 million in dividends — also topping this year’s payday.
Lottery spokesman David Workman said a shift in gaming choices caused the decrease. Overall ticket sales were up around 1 percent, coming in at $210.2 million. But with fewer large jackpots up for grabs, Powerball and Mega Millions sales slowed — and those games yield healthier lottery dividends. Instead, more people bought scratch tickets, which yield lower dividends.
“This year’s dividend comes in a challenging year,” Anderson said during a news conference at Otter’s office.
The governor agreed.
“There is no guarantee,” Otter said. “We don’t want anybody to get into trouble spending their lunch money on lottery tickets.”
Nevertheless, Otter praised lottery staffers and commissioners, saying they’ve operated with integrity and served as strong partners with the state and its schools over the lottery’s 26-year history.
Lottery officials distributed $45 million in dividends Tuesday. Public schools are the largest benefactor, but the money does not go into the general fund for K-12. Instead, $17 million is sent to the State Department of Education for use by districts, while $11 million goes to the bond levy equalization fund, which helps districts pay down interest costs on bond issues.
Compared to the $28 million dividend, Idaho’s general fund budget for K-12 comes in at $1.48 billion.
Otter also presented a ceremonial $17 million check to Permanent Building Fund Advisory Council acting chairman Dee Jameson.
Although lottery dividends have receded from record levels, Otter and Ybarra appeared in good spirits.
“It is truly an honor to stand in front of you and accept this money for Idaho schools,” Ybarra said. “We are grateful for the partnership you have with us.”
Otter also kept things light, jokingly referring to lottery commissioners as “money bags” and advising Ybarra not to try to deposit the giant, oversized check through her bank’s overnight deposit window.