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State superintendent accepts $46.3 million from Trust Land Revenue

by Whitefish Pilot
| November 23, 2022 1:00 AM

HELENA - As one of five members of the Montana Land Board, State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen accepted $53.7 million on behalf of public schools from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) at today’s Land Board meeting. Two separate checks were presented, $46.3 million from the Common Schools Fund for public schools and $7.4 million from the School Facility and Technology Fund.

“Our precious state trust lands are working for our most precious treasures – our students,” said Superintendent Elsie Arntzen. “The money earned from our trust lands directly benefits all Montana’s public school students while easing the burden on Montana taxpayers. I am thankful to the DNRC’s Trust Lands Management and my fellow Land Board members for continuing to put our Montana students first!”

This year’s $46.3 million equates to about $311 per student in our public schools. There was an increase in mineral and coal dollars that contributed to a large portion of these funds. Agriculture leases, timber sales, wheat, barley, and hay, and grazing revenues also contribute to the Common School Fund. The OPI also received $7.4 million associated with a riverbed rent settlement. During the upcoming biennium, these funds will be used to enhance the Debt Service Assistance program described in section § 20-9-367, MCA.

"I am incredibly proud of the work Trust Lands Management staff does on behalf of Montanans,” said Amanda Kaster, DNRC Director. “Their innovation and dedication to sustainably generating revenue in perpetuity from state-managed trust lands is demonstrated through the reliable funding we generate on an annual basis.”

During Superintendent Arntzen’s time in office, the following distributions have been made available for the benefit of Montana’s public schools:

2017: $43.1 million

2018: $41.9 million

2019: $45.9 million

2020: $41.1 million

2021: $47.7 million

2022: $46.3 million

All state trust lands are managed by the DNRC Trust Lands Management Division and benefit public schools through the sale of timber, surface, and mineral resources. The Land Board members are the five constitutionally elected officials in the state -- the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance.

When Montana became a state in 1889, the Enabling Act set aside a vast number of lands that support Common Schools. Today, the State manages 5.2 million surface acres and 6.2 million mineral acres in state trust lands that benefit Montana’s Common Schools.

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