State endowment lands garner big dollars

K-12 public ed to receive $61.5M while Priest Lake auction pulls in $13.1M

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

The Idaho Department of Lands is reaping a windfall of dollars in 2021, as 16 endowment-owned lakefront lots at Priest Lake recently sold for more than $13.1 million — nearly $3.6 million more than their appraised value. Funds from the sale, which took place Aug. 21 in Coeur d’Alene, go to support public schools. 

The Land Board consists of the Idaho governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state controller and superintendent of public instruction. The board administers the funds from state lands, accounting for more than 2.5 million acres of “endowment trust land under a constitutional mandate to maximize long-term financial returns to public schools and a number of other state of Idaho institutions,” according to a news release.

Of the properties auctioned Aug. 21, six were vacant and unleased while 10 were developed with homes or cabins. According to IDL, eight of the 10 lots were purchased by current leaseholders while two went to non-lessee bidders. Per state law, the land is owned by endowment beneficiaries — structures and other improvements on them are owned as personal property. Auctions are for the land only, with winning non-lessee bidders now obligated to pay for the land and appraised value of personal property to be reimbursed to lessees.

The auction is part of an effort by the state since 2010 to divest itself of ownership of most cottage sites on Priest and Payette lakes (the latter in the McCall area, about midway between Boise and Lewiston), which to date has resulted in 463 sales. Of those, 315 have occurred at Priest Lake and 148 at Payette Lake, amounting to more than $218.3 million. The Land Board has authorized IDL to offer such auctions of residential lake lots through 2024, as well as unleased lots at both lakes in Bonner and Valley counties.

Funds raised by the auctions goes to the so-called “Land Bank,” which is drawn on to purchase other lands in Idaho — such as timberland and, on a limited basis, farmlands, per a May 2016 decision — or funneled into a permanent fund, to accrue returns for endowment beneficiaries.

Among the main beneficiaries are Idaho schools, which in FY2023 will receive $61.5 million of a record $100 million disbursement from the IDL and Endowment Fund Investment Board, which manages $3.1 billion in funds. 

According to a joint news release, IDL and the EFIB stated that the share of K-12 public schools funding represents a 12.3% increase from the FY2022 disbursement.

“Outstanding investment performance and strong timber revenue resulted in growth in the Endowment Fund which allowed us to increase beneficiary distributions,” stated EFIB Manager of Investments Chris Anton. “This new record was the result of investment gains of $716.6 million, or 29.7%, and net lands revenue of $59.6 million.”

Other beneficiaries include almost $2 million to the Agricultural College Fund at the University of Idaho (the state’s land-grant university), $7 million to charitable institutions, $6.5 million to teacher education programs at Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College, $3.1 million to the Idaho Penitentiary Fund, $6.6 million to the U of I School of Science Fund, $7.5 million to State Hospital South in Blackfoot and $5.8 million to the U of I University Fund.

According to Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, “Serving on the Land Board has given me a great appreciation for the careful land management and investment that ensure our funding will be consistent and grow.”

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