January 10, 2013

Legislation could target Sakakawea area schools

Legislation could target Sakakawea area schools
By Jerry W. Kram

Officials of the New Town Public Schools and other area school districts will be keeping a close eye on the North Dakota Legislature as it begins its deliberations this week. New Town School Superintendent Marc Bluestone is concerned that area schools will be targeted by the Legislature for budget cuts because the school has benefited from oil and gas revenue from wells drilled under Lake Sakakawea.
Parshall, Killdeer and Tioga are among the other school districts that receive the oil royalty money. However, New Town was the largest recipient of the funds because the district contains the most acres of flooded land and has experienced the heaviest oil development.
The New Town School District received about $22 million in revenue from oil leases and royalties under land that was flooded by the creation of the lake in 1954. Under federal law, money from mineral development on those acres must be returned to the school districts, townships and counties where the land was located. When Garrison Dam was built, the land under the lake became federal property along with much of the shoreline and was put under the control of the Army Corps of Engineers. That removed hundreds of thousands of acres of land off of local property tax rolls.

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