Land office earnings for public
schools to fall short of '12 total
The Commissioners of the Land Office is on pace to distribute about $93 million to public schools this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Harry Birdwell, secretary of the land commissioners, said Thursday it would be close to the same amount distributed in the 2011 fiscal year, which was then a record-high amount. However, it will fall short of the $102 million distributed last year to public schools, he said. About $78 million has been distributed through May, compared with $98.4 million distributed for the same time period last year. Continued low natural gas prices have resulted in less interest from energy companies for participating in mineral lease auctions on school land, he said. The agency was able to get legislation passed in 2010 that allows it to distribute earnings over a five-year average to level out revenue from mineral lease payments to public schools, which can use the money for operating costs. Without the five-year average, public schools would have been on track to receive about $60 million this fiscal year, an agency spokeswoman said. The mineral lease payments give oil and natural gas companies the right to explore what is underground.
Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau