Idaho Parks Exec Wants 100% Budget Bump
The director of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation wants to double the amount of general fund money the agency gets in 2014 and praised a legion of volunteers for helping keep all 30 state parks open last year, KBOI-TV, Boise, reported.
Director Nancy Merrill said the agency, which has had its general fund contribution sliced significantly in recent years, got help from hundreds of people last year who volunteered an estimated 86,000 hours of service to help keep state parks open and operating.
"We are very proud to say we've been able to keep all 30 of our state parks open," Merrill told legislative budget writers Monday (Jan. 28) during her annual appearance before the committee. "Much of this is due to our great volunteers.
In 2012, overnight occupancy at state parks increased by 2.6% and revenue from all funding sources was up by 7.45%, Merrill said. The agency's total budget for fiscal 2013 is $32.4 million, with the vast majority of that coming from dedicated funds, entry and camping fees, RV registrations and $5 million in federal funds.
"It has been a cumulative agency effort to do the best with what we have," Merrill said in a newspaper story.
For next year, however, Merrill is asking for a little extra from the state's general fund. Her 2014 budget request is for $2.8 million, more than double from the $1.3 million appropriated a year ago. In his budget proposal, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter approved $1.35 million, or a 2% hike in general fund resources. The difference is due largely to a request of $1.4 million in replacement items Otter doesn't support.
Merrill also told lawmakers the agency's sales of park "Passports" are off to a good start. Since October, the agency has sold 18,400 passports, the $10 annual pass for access to all state parks that can be purchased when motorists renew vehicle registrations. The agency is counting on sales of the passes to provide critical revenue in the future.