Lottery boasts record dividend to support schools

Area districts say funds may help prevent further cuts in future

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Lottery boasts record dividend to support schools

The Idaho Lottery Commission on Tuesday announced its largest dividend ever to support public schools - $41.5 million - but the funds won't be distributed directly to individual local school districts, separate from the state's regular education allocation, as they were before the recession.

The money in recent years has gone toward state accounts.

"The money will be helpful so that we may not have to make more cuts in the future than we already have, but it would be nice to restore the program the way it was before (funds sent to the local districts)," said Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane, adding that he has lobbied legislators for such an effort. "Most districts are just trying to not make major cuts to staff."

Several years ago, the lottery funds came directly to the local districts and were used for facilities and equipment. The funds were on top of the state's regular allocation to schools.

"(The dividend) may help free up other dollars by providing a source for some reserves rather than taking the reserves out of funding that would otherwise be available to districts," said Tom Taggart, business director for the Lakeland Joint School District.

The lottery commission presented the dividend check to Gov. Butch Otter in Boise on Tuesday.

"The Lottery is exceeding expectations and delivering on its commitment to help support Idaho public schools," Otter said. "I know the folks at the Idaho Lottery take their stewardship responsibilities very seriously. Their devotion to integrity helps ensure the Lottery pays off - for all of us."

Lottery and education officials say they won't know until August the breakdown of the funds by district. Funding amounts are determined by a formula at the Department of Education based on student enrollment and average daily attendance. Last year's funds ranged from $24,634 to the Kootenai School District to $576,345 for Coeur d'Alene.

The funds announced Tuesday will be used for the 2012-13 school year, said Melissa McGrath, Department of Education spokeswoman.

"These funds will be distributed as discretionary funds, which means it is up to each local school board to decide how to best spend this funding," McGrath said. "As state revenues continue to increase, the Legislature will likely look into this again going forward and determine the best way to distribute these funds."

Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson said multiple factors led to the success in fiscal 2012.

"We launched the most successful Idaho-only draw game in a decade, experienced a world record jackpot run and made improvements to Idaho's oldest draw game," he said. "I would like to extend our gratitude to our statewide retailer network, our vendor partners and everyone who plays the lottery."

This year's dividend was reached on the strength of record sales by the Idaho Lottery and its network of 1,150 statewide retailers. In fiscal 2012, the Lottery sold $175.8 million in products, an increase of 19.5 percent over the previous year. At more than $28 million over last year's record-tying sales figure, this year's increase is the single-largest in the Idaho Lottery's history.

This is the ninth consecutive year for a record for an Idaho Lottery dividend, and in the past 10 years, the annual dividend has more than doubled going from $20.5 million in 2003 to this year's $41.5 million.

With the total, both the Department of Education School Building Fund and the Department of Administration's Permanent Building Fund receive equal amounts of $17 million.

The Department of Education's Bond Levy Equalization Fund received its largest contribution in a single year of $7.5 million. That amount is greater than the three previous years' combined contributions of $6.5 million.

The dividend presentation was in front of the Capitol Annex Building, the former Ada County Courthouse that is currently undergoing safety and infrastructure renovation for future use as the Idaho Supreme Court's Law Library and the University of Idaho's Law Learning Center. The renovation is being completed by the Department of Administration using funds provided by the Lottery to the Permanent Building Fund.

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