Record SITLA earnings benefit local schools

Stock composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Annual earnings from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration increased by 7.7 percent to a record $49.3 million, and local schools are benefitting.

Enterprise Elementary School used its 2014-2015 School LAND Trust Funds to help purchase Chromebooks for their students, photo undated | Photo courtesy of SITLA, St. George News
Enterprise Elementary School used its 2014-2015 School LAND Trust Funds to help purchase Chromebooks for their students, photo undated | Photo courtesy of SITLA, St. George News

“Every dollar we earn through prudent investment of State School Fund is a dollar in school funding not paid by the Utah taxpayer, and this year we’re excited to announce record earnings,” Utah State Treasurer David Damschen said in a press statement.

This year’s earnings are a $3.5 million increase over the previous year’s earnings, Damschen said in a press statement. The Permanent State School Fund is the state’s largest land grant trust fund, with a balance of $2.08 billion.

Iron and Washington school districts will receive a combined $2.8 million for the 2016-2017 school year from the Permanent Fund.

Iron County School District will receive $732,581 and Washington County School District will receive $2,078,495.

“Hiring teachers and aides to reduce class sizes and investing in classroom technology are often priorities for many schools,” said Tim Donaldson, director of the School Children’s Trust at the Utah State Board of Education. “However, all academic programs, from reading and math tutoring to language and college prep courses, can be funded with school trust funds.”

The Permanent Fund’s interest and dividends are distributed to schools statewide each year; the funds support academic programs chosen by local school community councils, which are composed of parents, teachers and the principal from each school, and are approved by each respective school’s local school board.

“These funds support academic programs chosen at the local level, and are increasingly becoming more important in how we invest in the education of Utah’s children,” Damschen said.

Teaching colleges

SITLA also announced $354,ooo had been distributed to public teaching colleges from SITLA’s Normal Schools Permanent Fund. 

Institutions receiving funds include the University of Utah, Utah State, Dixie State, Utah Valley, Weber State, and Southern Utah universities.

The funds are distributed to universities that graduate students with teaching degrees, Deena Loyola, public information officer for the Utah Trust Lands Administration, said.

Southern Utah University, which graduated 171 teaching students this year, received $44,687 from the fund, Loyola said. Dixie State University received $14,373 for the 55 graduating teaching students.

 Teaching colleges, referred to as Normal Schools in Utah’s constitution, were allotted 100,000 acres of trust land at the time of statehood. SITLA manages the lands and deposits revenues into the Normal Schools Permanent Fund. The fund is invested by a separate agency, the School and Institutional Trust Funds Investment Office.

SITLA Director David Ure, who presented the checks to the six colleges, said the interest and dividends from the endowment are distributed annually based on the number of students graduating from each institution. The funds are used at the discretion of each college.

SITLA in Washington County

Eighty percent of SITLA’s development portfolio is in Washington County; when Utah became a state and SITLA was formed it was not given much land along the Wasatch Front, Kyle Pasley said in an earlier interview. Pasley is deputy assistant director of the SITLA planning and development group.

“Most of the land is around the rest of the state,” Pasley said. “And so the development opportunities are not as high as opportunities for oil and gas, mining and grazing, other uses like that.”

The Coral Canyon development in Washington City is an example of SITLA land currently under development in Southern Utah.

Read more: Interrupted by recession, Coral Canyon development underway again

There are currently about 1,250 homes in Coral Canyon, Pasley said. The development will total about 2,000 acres when completed and is expected to take another 15-17 years depending on demand.

Among other SITLA projects in the county, negotiations are underway for a large development located south of the Southern Corridor and extending to the Arizona border, according to information from SITLA.

SITLA manages 3.4 million acres of Utah land held in trust for 12 public institutions, generating revenue for and depositing funds into permanent funds for public schools, Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, the Utah State Hospital, Juvenile Justice Services, Utah State University, the University of Utah, and Miners Hospital at the University of Utah Medical Center, state teaching colleges, state reservoirs, and public buildings.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.


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