Utah K-12 Schools to Receive $45.8 million in interest, dividends from Trust Fund, at no Cost to Taxpayers
Salt Lake City – Elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the state will receive $45.8 million in School LAND Trust funds for the 2015-2016 school year, up 17 percent over last year. The School LAND Trust Office of the Utah Board of Education will distribute the record $45.8 million in annual interest and dividends from the $2 billion Permanent School Fund.
“This program provides fast-growing, tax-free money for Utah’s schools,” said Tim Donaldson, School Children’s Trust Director for the Utah State Board of Education. “Distributions have doubled in the past five years.”
Individual schools will use their School LAND Trust funds on projects determined by its School Community Council. This council, which includes parents, teachers, and the principal, identifies and discusses its school’s particular needs and administers the funds accordingly.
Last year, School Community Councils statewide made individual determinations of greatest academic need and spent the money in a data driven way to increase student achievement. According to Tracy Miller, Utah PTA’s Trust Lands Appointee, “Some school community councils chose to augment teaching staff by allocating funds to hire additional teachers and aides. Some councils spent to purchase computers and other technology. Other schools supported language, tutorial, special needs, music, and other programs.
Annual distributions from the Permanent School Fund have grown tremendously, from just $8.3 million in fiscal year 2004 to $45.8 million this year. This growth is due to the support of state policymakers, investment returns generated by the State Treasurer’s Office and School Trust Fund Board of Trustees, and $1.1 billion in deposits by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
SITLA manages Utah’s 3.3 million acres of school trust lands for the public education system and generates revenue from a diverse portfolio of oil, gas, mining, real estate development, and other sales, leasing, and permitting activities. Revenue is deposited into the Permanent School Fund, which is invested by a board of financial and investment professionals led by State Treasurer Richard K. Ellis.
“Returns have been very healthy the past five years with annualized returns of 11.06 percent for the period ending March 31, 2015, the Permanent School Fund was ranked 7th percentile in the Public Fund Large (>$1B) comparison group,” said Allen Rollo, Interim Chief Investment Officer, School and Institutional Trust Fund Office. “The investments have a strategic tilt to equities, as a perpetual fund, and the equity markets have performed well in recent years.”
“SITLA is proud to support teachers, students, and taxpayers through the public school land endowment,” said SITLA Director Kevin Carter. “We’re excited to see annual contributions grow and fill the gap in education needs not met by taxpayer contributions.” SITLA is entirely self-funded with no taxpayer or general fund support.
In addition to generating $98.5 million for public schools last year, SITLA earned an additional $6 million for state hospitals, universities, and teaching colleges