Nearly all of South Dakota’s school districts will see an increase in funding from public lands this year, with roughly one-third earning extra for growing enrollment numbers.
The state Office of School and Public Lands presented a report to the House Education Committee on Wednesday, laying out school payouts for 2014 based on the performance of public lands administered by the department.
The state maintains 2,800 leases on 760,422.45 acres of land, and also manages 5.2 million acres of mineral, oil and gas rights. Money from surface rights, such as grazing, and half the revenue generated from the mineral leases, is paid directly to schools, while the other half is put into a permanent trust fund from which revenue is generated through interest.
The trust fund was created by the state constitution with the stipulation that the principal amount can only be added to. In the past few years the fund’s growth has been accelerated by a 2000 amendment to the state’s constitution, which allows the fund to both adjust for inflation and invest in stocks through the South Dakota Investment Council.
Payouts to K-12 education for fiscal year 2014 from revenue generated by state land total $8.77 million. That is an increase of 18 percent from $7.42 million in fiscal 2013. That represents an average of $60.70 per student statewide, up from $52.17 last year.
The payments, which go out to school districts on Feb. 4, are also partially based on enrollment numbers. So while the increase to a school district with no change in student numbers would be that same 18 percent, those districts with dropping enrollment will see less of an increase while growing districts would see a larger one.
Out of the 151 districts in the state, 57 were above that 18 percent funding level. Another 73 had increases between 11 percent and 18 percent.
The Sioux Falls School District will receive the largest amount of extra money over last year, an additional $235,928.69. Rapid City Area School District will get $154,433.76 above what it did last year. The Aberdeen School District will gain an additional $52,674.86 in 2014.
Locally, the Pierre School District will see a 20.7 percent bump, or an additional $28,020.59, this year. The Stanley County School District’s payout is up $5,383.60, or 19.2 percent.
Dupree School District saw the most dramatic increase in terms of percentage. Despite receiving only a little more than $8,000 in additional revenue for 2014, that’s a 56 percent increase from 2013.
Elk Mountain School District was one of two reported decreases, dropping $345.10 or 30 percent from last year. The other decrease was a 3 percent, or $186.46, decline for the Henry School District.
Ryan Brunner, deputy commissioner of School and Public Lands, said the majority of the growth in revenue this year is due to investments from the permanent trust fund.
The fair market value of the fund as of last week was $242 million, up from $222 million at the end of fiscal 2013 and $188 million at the end of fiscal 2012. The fund is able to generate enough revenue to cover inflation, which has not always been the case.
“That’s a big benefit that we didn’t have in 2008 and 2009,” Brunner said.
The Office of School and Public Lands is also cautiously optimistic for fiscal 2015. Oil and gas revenues have seen steady increases and are already higher than total revenue for fiscal 2013, with new wells still being drilled. The permanent fund is fully recovered from the recession, he said.