March 10, 1995 in Idaho

Lottery May Be The Ticket Tribe Says Potential For Schools ‘Staggering’

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Schools on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation could go from rags to riches if the National Indian Lottery survives legal challenges and generates the massive sums expected.

“If everything goes as anticipated, we are looking at a staggering sum of money,” said Alfred Nomee, chairman of the tribal school board.

But neither Nomee nor the superintendent of the public schools on the Coeur d’Alene reservation is counting on a lottery windfall.

“Anybody who believes that would go out and look for a pot of gold,” said Plummer/Worley schools Superintendent Bob Singleton.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe secured the right to run a nationwide lottery from the U.S. secretary of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission in January.

Tribal gaming director Dave Matheson projects that annual income from the lottery could be $400 million. Of that, $200 million would go to payoffs.

Under a compact with the state of Idaho, the tribe has agreed that 5 percent of the net revenue from gaming would be split between the tribal school and schools on or near the reservation.

That means the tribal school, which this year has a budget of just $700,000, could get $5 million in one year.

Nomee isn’t doing back flips yet.

“We have no idea what kind of dollar figure we are looking at,” he said.

In the event the jackpot projection is realized, Nomee said, the first priority would be to finish the new $4 million school.

The tribe broke ground for the school in September 1993, but unstable soil and complications with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs have slowed the project to a near standstill. The tribe can’t pay the contractor until the BIA releases the money.

“About the only thing we’ve gotten is extensions on the project,” quipped John Abraham, school board member and tribal planner.

The other half of the schooldesignated funds would be distributed to public schools in the region, according to the pact.

“That’s so broad, we feel like we can define it however we like,” Matheson said. “We’d like to stay as close to home as we can.”

The tribe may have to hire someone simply to review funding requests from area schools, he said.

The tribal school and Plummer/ Worley School District have each already received $28,000 under the pact from bingo proceeds.

The tribal school is keeping the money in a rainy day account where it’s generating interest for school programs. The Plummer/Worley schools are using the money to launch a program next year to teach the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Salishan language.

The language, now only rarely used, is being taught at the tribal school through a special computer program.

In addition, the tribe has designated 10 percent of the lottery’s net revenue for higher education and work force training. The tribe intends to build a community college, which would be the 28th Indian college in the nation.

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