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Record $82.6 million in trust land funds en route to Utah schools

The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation has approved $435,000 in grant funding for 14 outdoor recreation projects statewide with an estimated impact of more than $2.8 million — including grant funds, matching funds and private investment.
Utah schools will receive a record $82.6 million in interest earnings from the Permanent State School Fund in July 2019, a 12 percent increase over this year's distribution, according to the Office of the Utah State Treasurer.
Carlos Voss, Fotolia

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah schools will receive a record $82.6 million in interest earnings from the Permanent State School Fund in July 2019, a 12 percent increase over this year's distribution, according to the Office of the Utah State Treasurer.

The funding, commonly referred to as trust land funds, are distributed to every public school in Utah based on a per-pupil formula to fund a plan developed by each school's community council to improve students' academic performance.

Trust lands are parcels of land held in trust to benefit 12 state institutions, primarily public schools. When Utah became a state, Congress granted parcels of land to the state and created permanent endowments to support these institutions.

Since 1994, the Permanent State School Fund has grown from $76 million to $2.4 billion.

"Every dollar we earn through prudent investment of the fund is a dollar in school funding not paid by the Utah taxpayer," said Utah State Treasurer David Damschen.

Damschen acknowledged "the great work of the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration administering trust lands and the solid investment decisions of the School and Institutional Trust Funds Office maximizing the impact of the Permanent State School Fund. Their efforts benefit Utah's education programs now and for years to come."

The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, works to administer trust lands as efficiently as possible for Utah's schoolchildren, "generating revenue from energy, real estate and surface development on the 3.3 million acres of school trust lands," said director David Ure.

Ure said the best part of his job is visiting schools to see how schools use distributions "to create better educational experiences for students."

School and Institutional Trust Funds Office, or SITFO, which was created as an independent state agency under legislation enacted in 2014, invests the funds.

The office is overseen by a five-person board made up of investment professionals and chaired by the state treasurer.

"It is always very rewarding to see the figures come to life and help make a real impact in Utah classrooms," said Peter Madsen, chief investment officer for the trust funds office.