SITLA Welcomes New Director David Ure
David Ure took the helm as new SITLA Director on January 1 of this year. Governor Gary R. Herbert announced his concurrence with the School and Institutional Trust Lands (SITLA) Board of Trustees’ (SITLA) appointment this past October.
“David Ure is a well-known public servant who has long demonstrated the principled, aggressive, hardworking character one would expect in a fourth generation dairy farmer from Kamas,” said Governor Herbert in a prepared statement. “We are confident Utah’s schoolchildren and other interested stakeholders will benefit from Dave’s leadership in this position.”
Mr. Ure replaces outgoing SITLA Director Kevin Carter, who served in that position since 2003. Under his leadership, SITLA earned more than $1.3 billion and helped grow the Permanent School Fund to just over $2 billion. Also during his tenure, interest and dividends from the Permanent Fund have grown from $8 million in 2003 to $45.8 million this school year.
Proposed Changes to Permanent School Fund Distribution
Senator Ann Millner and Rep. Mel Brown have proposed an amendment to the state constitution that, if passed by the Legislature and approved by voters, would increase and stabilize annual distributions from the Permanent School Fund through the School LAND Trust Program. The goal of the amendment is to ensure distributions from the School LAND Trust program reflect the needs of current beneficiaries while continuing to grow the fund balance for future beneficiaries.
Most educational endowment funds distribute between four and five percent annually, which is considered a fair amount to both grow the fund and provide an appropriate distribution to beneficiaries. Historic distribution from the Permanent School Fund has been closer to two percent. That has provided for rapid growth, but may be unfair to current beneficiaries.
The proposal has the full endorsement of the Utah State Board of Education, SITLA Board of Trustees, School and Institutional Trust Funds Office Board of Trustees, and 2013 School Trust Investment Task Force. For additional information, please contact the School Children’s Trust Section at the Utah Office of Education 801-538-7764.
Cave Towers Stewardship Project
This past September, SITLA staffers and 24 volunteers with the Friends of Cedar Mesa, held a weekend stewardship project aimed at protecting spectacular Cave Towers, an Ancestral Puebloan site at the head of Mule Canyon on Cedar Mesa in San Juan County.
SITLA and Friends of Cedar Mesa volunteers installed 500 feet of buck-and-rail fencing to delineate parking and camping areas. They also installed two informational and interpretive kiosks, installed three metal fire rings to support responsible camping, and cleared 200 pounds of charcoal, broken glass, and trash within the archaeological site boundaries.
Cave Towers is located on a section of land held in trust for Utah’s public school system, one of many such sections granted to the state of Utah upon statehood in January 1896. School trust lands are managed by SITLA to provide financial support for public education in Utah.
Stewardship of trust lands for long-term revenue production is a significant component of the SITLA management plan. Since 1994, SITLA has generated in excess of $1.5 billion and been involved in numerous transactions and projects that have protected more than 560,000 acres of Utah land, an area equivalent to the combined acreage of Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks.
Land Donation for School Children's Trust
On behalf of the Public School Trust, SITLA recently accepted a donation of 80 acres of land in Iron County. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, contributed the land after learning his bequest would support the permanent education endowment benefiting Utah’s schoolchildren.
According to SITLA Deputy Director Kim Christy, the agency will determine whether to sell or develop the donated land and deposit all proceeds into the Permanent School Fund. For more information about land donations, please contact Kim Christy at 801-538-5183.
Planning and Development Growth
The SITLA Planning and Development Group posted gross revenues of $28.6 million last fiscal year, which marks a 75 percent increase over the previous year. FY2015 was the third highest revenue year since the group’s inception in 1998, while combined capital and operating expenses were the lowest since 1999.
FY2015 saw completion of structured payments on land for the St. George Airport, as well as several bulk land sales in southern Utah. This year’s success is the result of sustained planning efforts and capital investment over a number of years, and renewed commitment in both areas should result in a continuation of superior results.
During FY2015, the group selected developers and entered into negotiations for two major master-planned development communities, which should begin producing significant revenues for the Trust over the next few years. The group remains cautiously optimistic about current market conditions and trends. Efforts to maximize added value on developable Trust properties will continue with a long-term focus to protect future values.