School Land Trust to sell 3,700 acres in auctions this week

Sunday, April 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ More than 3,700 acres of primarily pasture and timber land will be auctioned off this week when the Commissioners of the Land Office holds its annual real estate sale.

The auctions begin Monday in Beaver, Altus and Pawnee.

By Friday, when auctions in Newkirk and Pauls Valley are complete, the land office _ better known as the School Land Trust _ will have sold 3,712 acres of land.

The parcels range from 640 acres in Comanche County to 19 acres on the northern edge of the Deer Creek School District in Oklahoma City.

The state agency owns 750,000 acres in Oklahoma.

Gov. Frank Keating directed the land commission to began selling parcels of the original grant land at public auction. Since 1996, the agency has sold 50,000 acres at annual actions.

The land cannot be sold for less than its appraised value and a minimum bid is placed on each piece of property.

The sale proceeds go directly into the trust's permanent fund and are invested in stocks and bonds, said Keith Kuhlman, director of real estate management for the agency.

The land office retains mineral rights on land it sells.

Keating would support selling all 750,000 acres of trust land if the price were right, said the governor's spokesman, Dan Mahoney.

``The governor believes these state-owned lands should be sold,'' Mahoney said. ``It's provided a good rate of return and continues to help increase funding to schools.''

But State Auditor and Inspector Clifton Scott disagrees. Real estate has historically outperformed the stock market, he said.

``As I have grown older, I have seen property values increase a lot, and I don't think it's (selling the land) that good of a deal,'' Scott said. ``I prefer to keep it.''

He believes can make more money by leasing the land, rather than selling it.

The auctions may stop soon. Keating's term is expiring and there likely will be at least three new land commissioners next year.

The state's five land commissioners are the governor, the lieutenant governor, state auditor and inspector, superintendent of public instruction and president of the state Board of Agriculture.

The Commissioners of the Land Office was created at statehood to manage land the federal government granted to the state.

Congress originally dedicated 3 million acres in Oklahoma Territory to the new state government so it would have enough money to establish and operate schools.

The agency distributes $55 million a year to public schools and universities. That money is earned from leasing the land, plus interest and dividends mad on the permanent trust fund.