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Idaho Land Board will no longer acquire commercial buildings

The state Land Board owns this building, which is leased by 10 Barrel Brewing's downtown Boise brewpub. File photo.

The state Land Board owns this building, which is leased by 10 Barrel Brewing’s downtown Boise brewpub. File photo.

The Idaho Land Board will no longer acquire commercial buildings.

That decision came as part of a set of investment changes approved during a Dec. 15 meeting. The Land Board, made up of the state’s top elected officials, instead issued a formalized position that it will continue managing its existing commercial property and some of its grazing land, but look to sell property as attractive opportunities arise.

The board will also seek to procure more timberlands, which are considered a more valuable investment based on a report from consulting firm Callan Associates.

The board’s involvement in commercial property, including purchasing a self-storage company in Boise, has sparked outrage among some Republicans in the state in recent years. Critics claim the panel shouldn’t compete with private businesses. The board has countered that Idaho’s constitution demands that it do whatever it can to maximize revenue on endowment lands.

In February, the board voted to suspend buying commercial properties, but the issue remained a hot topic through the 2014 elections. Secretary of State-elect Lawerence Denney was an outspoken critic of the board investing in commercial properties throughout his campaign.

The Land Board oversees the state’s 2.5 million acres of endowment lands, which provides funding primarily to public schools. At its Dec. 15 meeting, the board also unanimously approved establishing new advisers, auditors and outside consultants over the next two years to improve independent oversight.

The board also decided Dec. 15 that it would delegate more routine land management decisions to the Idaho Department of Lands and would focus on making higher-level policy decisions.

In total, it will cost more as much as $600,000 per year to implement the recommendations.

The Idaho Land Board is made up of the governor, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, attorney general and state controller. It manages endowment lands as well as $1.6 billion in stocks and bonds. In 2013, the land trust distributed $47.5 million to state funds;  $31.3 million went to Idaho’s public schools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Brad Iverson-Long

Brad Iverson-Long is a reporter for the Idaho Business Review, covering banks, financial services, technology and new business.