Idaho parks could see fewer state tax dollars in the next state budget, though its total spending plan could increase slightly due to an increased use of fees on visitors and RV campers.
The shift is part of a new business model by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) to depend less on state funding, due in part to budgetary pressures, the Boise-based Idaho Reporter stated.
“We hit this parks department pretty severely in terms of general funds,” said Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who helped write the new parks budget. State funding for parks dropped from almost $16 million in the 2009 budget year to a proposed $1.3 million in the 2012 budget. Eskridge and other lawmakers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) approved that budget unanimously today.
“We believe that we’ve got a good solid budget that we can operate the department on and move forward some projects that will generate some revenue and help us be sustainable,” IDPR Director Nancy Merrill said.
The budget includes shifting some fees from RV registrations and other sources to pay for upgrades at several parks. Henry’s Lake State Park in southeast Idaho would get an expanded campground, costing $2 million. Farragut State Park in north Idaho would get $250,000 to renovate a restroom and Heyburn State Park, also in north Idaho, would get $600,000 for renovations. Several other parks would get smaller amounts for renovations.
Merrill said IDPR is continuing further with its business plan, which also includes adding advertisements to some parks. She said she’s been in talks with a major corporate sponsor, but couldn’t reveal which company is contemplating funding a park or program.
The $1.3 million in state funding for parks, starting in July, fits the budget target JFAC has for reducing state funding by 2.2% beyond the budget set by Gov. Butch Otter. The plan, like all other agency budgets approved by JFAC, must be approved by the Idaho House and Senate.