Let’s say the state endowment is earning $10 a year from a lease for sheep grazing on a parcel of state-owned land. The endowment, of course, benefits public schools and other state institutions. Now, let’s say that land happens to lie near Sun Valley, in a ritzy subdivision where rich folks are building estate homes. Worth looking into how much the land’s actually worth?
That’s just what’s happened, under endowment reforms that Idaho voters approved some years back. One aspect of the reforms calls for the state to sell properties that aren’t earning good returns, and replace them with other, better land investments. It’s about to get its first test.
This morning, the state Land Board approved selling at auction a 57-acre parcel, now used for sheep grazing, that’s in a high-end subdivision near Ketchum. The state Lands Department thought the property might be worth $2 million, but the appraisal is just in – and it’s $5.1 million. That’ll be the starting bid at a late-September public auction.
“We can only make a bunch of money, the way I look at it,” said Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who chaired the Land Board meeting as Gov. Dirk Kempthorne is still recovering from his back surgery last week. “I think it’s a great move. Hopefully we can make a lot of money for the public schools.”
Under the endowment reforms, proceeds from any such sale would go into a “land bank,” and the state would have five years to spend them on other land. Otherwise, they go into the permanent endowment fund. Either way, the earnings go to the endowment’s beneficiaries, mainly Idaho’s public schools.