At the Aug. 28 auction of state-owned Priest Lake cabin sites at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, many in the crowd wondered if Idaho really was getting a better deal for the state’s schoolchildren – the beneficiaries of the Priest Lake state endowment lands – by divesting itself of the cabin sites.
Here’s a look at the numbers: The 59 cabin-site renters are currently charged rent at 4 percent of appraised value for the ground under their cabins, which came to a total this year of $1,070,857.
The state endowment’s take from the auction was $26,903,812. That’s more than 25 years’ worth of rent collected in a single night, at today’s rental rates. In the past year, the rent collected on the properties was actually significantly less, somewhere around $700,000, as the appraisals, on which the rents are based, were still in the process of going up. At that rate, the take from the auction was a little more than 38 years’ worth of rent payments.
Idaho’s permanent endowment fund – the cash – is invested in the market and last year made a whopping 18.8 percent return. In the past five years, the cash fund has made an average of 14.7 percent a year; in the past 10 years, the average gain was 8.5 percent. Looking ahead, fund managers predict an average annual gain of 6.5 percent.
Aside from the cash, the state endowment’s biggest moneymaker is its timberland. Last year, a record-high timber harvest of 347 million board-feet resulted in $53.5 million in profits for the endowment. The increased harvest was due in part to salvage logging of trees damaged by wildfires and insects.
The state started the year with 354 lakefront cabin sites at Priest Lake and 167 at Payette Lake, but it has started selling them off. All cottage site rents statewide came to a net of $4.2 million. Grazing land pulled in a paltry $775,000 after expenses. Oil and gas leases, a relatively new revenue source, brought in a little more than $1 million for the endowment.
Idaho has now sold 95, or almost one-fifth, of its 534 cottage site lots at Priest Lake and Payette Lake. Plans call for another 36 lots at Payette Lake to be auctioned later this year, with the idea of shifting to assets with a better rate of return for the endowment.
Luna offers transition access
Tom Luna, Idaho state superintendent of schools, is making an offer to both of the candidates vying to succeed him: The day after the election, he’s offering an office next to his to whichever one is elected to allow the next superintendent to start the transition.
“They can be here every day, they can attend senior staff meetings with me, go to meetings with the governor and legislators,” Luna said. “I have positions I’ve not filled. If they want to identify candidates to fill those positions, I’ll hire them. I want this transition to be very smooth. I think that’s what’s best for education, and once the people of Idaho have spoken, let’s move forward.”
Luna, a Republican, said his offer applies equally to both candidates: Democrat Jana Jones and Republican Sherri Ybarra.
John Bujak, Libertarian candidate for governor of Idaho, has posted his own anti-Butch Otter website titled www.liberal otter.com – echoing the attack website www.liberalAJ.com put up earlier by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry to go after Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff, as part of the business lobbying group’s independent campaign against Balukoff. Both sites accuse their targeted candidates of being liberals.
Bujak’s site is headed, “Otter: TOO LIBERAL for IDAHO” and faults the second-term GOP governor on everything from supporting Common Core standards to being a “Good Old Boy.” An item at the top of the page features Otter’s face morphing into Balukoff’s and back again, repeatedly, under the heading, “Otter & AJ: Both Too Liberal For Idaho.”
“I looked at the “LiberalAJ” website put up by IACI,” Bujak said. “It seemed to be a little bit of the pot calling the kettle black, since Butch isn’t really that much off the mark when you compare their positions on the main issues, so it seemed like the right thing to do.”
In addition to Otter, Balukoff and Bujak, the ballot for governor this year also includes Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey and independents Jill Humble and “Pro-Life,” who formerly was known as Marvin Richardson. Otter is seeking a third term.
Two write-in candidates also have filed to run for governor, both little-known independents from southwestern Idaho: Larry Allen White of Nampa and Kurt M. Wertzbaugher of Payette.
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