The Permanent School Fund contains royalty revenue obtained from below the ground on more than 17,000 acres of Upshur County-owned “school land” in two West Texas counties--Baylor and Throckmorton. County Treasurer Myra Harris told the court none of the fund had ever been distributed to the schools in her 33 years on the county payroll, and told The Mirror she believed this was the first time any of it was ever released to the districts.
Each school district’s share was determined by the number of its students residing in Upshur County (several school districts, such as Gladewater ISD and Harmony ISD, lie partly in another county, and the districts received no funds for students living outside Upshur). Gilmer ISD received the largest share, $357,830, or 32.53 percent of the total, while New Diana ISD received the second-largest amount, $151,580, or 13.78 percent.
The Commissioners Court annually distributes funds to the nine schools from a separate “County Available” fund, which receives above-ground revenue from the West Texas property (such as grazing leases, road damages, and fence damages). Interest from the Permanent Fund—currently less than one percent—goes into the Available Fund.
The court Tuesday approved County Judge Dean Fowler’s recommendation to release $1.1 million of the $1,134,499.36 which County Auditor Brandy Lee said was in the Permament Fund.
Fowler and Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer had appeared before the Union Hill School Board March 6 to discuss releasing the Permament School Fund, which Fowler said was sitting idle. He and Spencer told the trustees they thought the court would release the funds, as permitted by the state constitution, if the county’s schools requested it.
Fowler told the board the districts must use such funds either to reduce bond debt or make permament improvements. After Tuesday’s court meeting, he told The Mirror that five schools had sent letters requesting the release—Gilmer, New Diana, Ore City, Harmony and Union Hill—but that the other four were agreeable to it.
Gilmer’s share was based on 2120.992 Upshur pupils, while New Diana’s was based on 898.530 such students.
Other districts, their number of Upshur students, and their shares include Harmony, 827, $139,480; Ore City, 740, $124,850; Union Grove, 627.680, $105,930; Big Sandy, 581, $98,010; Gladewater, 473, $79,750; Union Hill, 242.500, $40,920; and Pittsburg, 10, $1,650.