The reward for living in Alaska — $845.76

/ Source: The Associated Press

Nearly every Alaska resident will receive an $845.76 check this year as a share of the state’s oil riches — the fifth straight year that the payout has dropped.

The dividend checks are distributed every year from an oil royalty account called the Alaska Permanent Fund, created in 1976 after oil was discovered on the North Slope. Some 603,080 Alaskans are expected to receive dividends this year.

For video store clerk Dave Marshall, the annual payout means getting a chance to escape the dark, cold winter of the far north. This year, he’s thinking Hawaii.

“Somewhere nice and warm,” the 18-year-old Juneau resident said Tuesday. “You’ve got to leave once in a while.”

The payouts are calculated based on a five-year average of investment income derived from bonds, stock dividends and sales, and other investments. Anyone who has lived in the state for over a year is eligible.

Dividends, paid since 1982, have ranged from $331.29 to $1,963.86 in 2000.

This year’s payout is the lowest since 1988. Stock market losses in 2002 and 2003 drove the value down this year, according to the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Frank Murkowski said the state could see a $1.5 billion surplus this year from high oil prices. Although the year’s record crude oil prices bulk up the fund’s principal, that money must be invested and is not figured into dividends.