What does the lottery pay for?

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons Commercial license.
Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons Commercial license.
BOISE, Idaho - Idaho's dwindling education budget remains a hotly contested issue.

KBOI 2News has received several viewer calls asking about the lottery contribution to the school budget and the role it's playing in helping the cash strapped school districts. So what does the lottery pay for?

We asked Boise residents how much they thought the lottery gave each year to education.

Responses ranged from $200,000 to $15 million, but most people didn't believe the lottery gave much at all.

In all the Idaho Lottery is a $145 million a year business that gives about 12 percent of its profit to Idaho's education. In fiscal year 2010, The Idaho Lottery wrote a check to the "People of Idaho" for $36.5 million which was split three ways.

The rest of the money goes toward operating costs, salaries, paying retailers, player prizes and marketing expenses.

Seventeen million dollars went to the Department of Education Public Education school building account. Another $17 million was given to the Idaho Permanent Building fund and the final $2.5 million was allotted for the Bond Levy Equalization Fund.

Money that's given to the Idaho Department of Education is distributed to districts throughout the state based on attendance. For example, about $1.5 million went to the Boise School District. The Meridian Joint School District received a little over $2 million, the Nampa School District netted about $870,000 and the Idaho Virtual Academy School District earned around $115,000.

"The money we provide goes to fix (things such as) a leaking roof, repave a parking lot, install playground equipment at elementary schools," said Jeff Anderson, Idaho Lottery director.

The $17 million given to the Idaho Permanent Building Fund is mandated by Idaho law to match the amount the Department of Education receives.

The Permanent Building Fund is a group of five members that make decisions on major Idaho public works projects.

Senator Denton Darrington, the Building Fund chairman describes their job as approving "all the projects for public works, both capital projects, that's the big projects, buildings, major projects and alterations and repairs projects."

In 2010, the Idaho Permanent Building Fund put upgrades in at Boise State University, renovated bathrooms at the Department of Corrections, and replaced blinds and windows at the Department of Labor. The lottery's contribution makes up about 40 percent of the Building Fund's budget.

The third portion of the lottery check heads to the Idaho Bond Levy Equalization Fund, which helps small school districts with their bond payments for school projects.

So could the lottery increase its contributions as profits increase? For the time being, no.

Anderson says the current lottery amounts are set by state statue, which means Idaho lawmakers would have to adjust the amount of money the lottery gives.

Even without the option to increase lottery contributions, those who play the game say it won't keep them from trying for a little luck that may help out students.

"The more the better, that's why I play the lottery actually… that's the primary reason I put two bucks down once in awhile," said Boise resident Morrie Bronson.

Anderson says no matter how you play it, "the lottery is a winner for the people of Idaho, it really is."

One extra boost for students that's not attached to the giant check, the "Scratch for Schools" program. That program gave out an extra $88,000 that schools could spend on anything from kick balls to classroom supplies.