Texas Budgeting $5 Million for '14 Park Repair
Funding to keep Texas state parks open and provide grants for city and county parks, millions to aid the declining bobwhite quail and its grassland habitat, fisheries funding that benefits water resources, and dollars for conservation law enforcement are among the highlights of the 2014 budget approved Thursday (Aug. 22) by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Times Record News, Wichita Falls, reported.
“Barring any catastrophic event like a hurricane, extreme drought or a wildfire, the state budget adopted by lawmakers means that no state parks will close due to lack of funding in the next two years,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department executive director. “Further, the Legislature also funded many of the critical requests for the fisheries and wildlife side of our business.
“We appreciate very much this support from state elected leaders for parks and conservation.”
The department’s fiscal year 2014 operating and capital budget totals about $380 million, including about $272 million for salaries, related benefits and operating expenses, about $30 million for grants and close to $75 million for capital items such as construction and computers.
The 2014 budget is an increase from the 2013 budget of $357 million, but still below the $423 million for 2011. The state budget bill also increased the department’s employee count by 103 full-time equivalent positions, to 3,109 positions for 2014.
The budget reflects overall funding approved by legislators in the state General Appropriations Act for the 2014-2015 biennium, which authorized additional funding requests. Some of those, in two-year totals:
- The department requested about $18.9 million for state park operations. The final state budget included close to $17.9 million.
- The department requested $11.9 million for such capital budget priorities as replacement vehicles and computers. The state budget included $10.4 million.
- The department requested $40 million for capital repairs and construction. The budget included $8 million for Fund 9/fisheries and wildlife facility capital construction and $11 million in bonds for repairs at existing facilities.
- The budget provided the department’s entire request for $13 million for important fish and wildlife funding. This includes $4 million for quail habitat enhancement.
- The budget also included all of TPWD’s request for $15.5 million for local park grants to cities and counties across Texas.
- An additional provision provides $2 million over two years for an interagency contract with Texas A&M University to help a species in decline: bobwhite quail. This will develop educational resources and programs to reestablish quail populations based on research-proven best management practices, plus fund research efforts.
During the session, legislators also approved supplemental funding for the department using 2013 dollars. This includes $5 million for state park capital repairs, close to $4.9 million for Bastrop State Park wildfire recovery, and $889,000 in state park operating funding from motor vehicle registration opt-in donations approved in the previous legislative session.