Elementary, middle and high schools in the Morgan County School District received $236,124 in School LAND Trust funds for the 2014-2015 school year, at no cost to taxpayers.
The School LAND Trust Office of the Utah Board of Education distributed the district’s share of a record $39.2 million statewide distribution of annual interest and dividends from the $1.9 billion Permanent School Fund.
“School community councils will be receiving about 5 percent more money this year,” said Tim Donaldson, School Children’s Trust director for the Utah State Board of Education. “This has become a substantial funding source for our schools, and allows parents a way to get involved and have a voice in helping improve the education of our students.”
Each school in the Morgan County School District 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 their school’s needs and administers the funds accordingly.
Last year, School Community Councils statewide chose to augment teaching staff by allocating $20 million to hire additional teachers and aides. Councils also spent $5 million 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 $39.2 million this year. This growth is largely due to revenue generated by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), which has deposited more than $1 billion into the Permanent School Fund since 2004, and $125 million last year alone.
SITLA manages Utah’s 3.3 million acres of school trust lands for the public education system. The administration 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 now invested by a board of financial and investment professionals led by the state treasurer. The Fund is expected to top $2 billion within the next few months.
“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 $125 million for public schools, SITLA earned an additional $10 million for state hospitals, universities and teaching colleges.