Eligible Alaskans will receive an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend check of $845.76 this fall, Gov. Frank Murkowski announced Tuesday.
The amount is $74.08 less than the dividend Alaskans received last year. It is the lowest amount to issued since 1988.
The governor made the announcement at Centennial Hall during a dinner and annual meeting of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., an independent company that manages the fund.
The dividends are calculated from a five-year average of a fund invested in markets. This year's dividend includes poor investment returns from 2002 and 2003, fiscal years affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and corporate accounting scandals, the fund's directors and state officials said.
The fund's performance is actually on an upswing, the governor said.
"We're really here tonight to celebrate our prosperity," Murkowski said.
Mike Burns, executive director of the corporation, said this year's fund was ranked 15th in performance nationally against public and private pension funds.
Investments in real estate showed the highest gains, Burns said.
The fund will pay out $510 million this year.
The total value of the fund is $31.48 billion, with investments made in U.S. and foreign stock markets, bonds, real estate and other investments.
The return on the investment was 10.43 percent, an amount less than the 14.1 percent return reported last year.
"Looking to the future, as these bad years sequence out, we should be looking at a gradual increase in dividends, unless the stock market falls out," said Department of Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus.
Some 603,080 Alaskans will receive dividends this year, which is about 2,300 more than last year, Corbus said.
Dividends sent by direct deposit will arrive on Oct. 12. Those sent by mail will go out Oct. 26.
The program was created by voters in 1976 from oil-wealth savings and began distributing dividend checks in 1982. The first dividends were $1,000 each.
The fund has paid out $13.6 billion to eligible Alaskans. Individual Alaskans who have collected all 24 dividends have received a total of $24,775.45.
The largest dividend checks, totaling $1,963, were distributed in 2000. Dividends dropped to their lowest, $331, in 1984.
Residents must live in the state a full calendar year before becoming eligible for the program.