The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) will need to find a new way of doing business with significantly less state support. Idaho parks will see 20 percent less money in the next budget set by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee Monday. That includes a 79 percent reduction in state general fund support.
“It makes every attempt to do as little harm to the parks department as possible,” said Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle.
Like many other agency budgets set this year, funding for parks would decrease, but flexibility in spending that money would increase. For IDPR, that includes the ability to shift money between personnel and maintenance costs, as well as spending any unanticipated donations. “That flexibility to be able to adjust to the market as the revenues come in is really important to us,” Merrill said.
“They need the flexibility,” said Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum. She said it could be difficult for IDPR to become self-sufficient, but that IDPR still working on its business plan to reach that goal. One step forward, according to Jaquet, would be improving its technology for collecting park fees. “There are ways to capture revenue that have not been captured in the past,” she said. That could mean installing mechanical arms blocking entrances or exits to state parks to require park passes, or selling annual park passes on IDPR’s website. “I just think everybody needs to buy a pass. There’s only 12,000 passes that have been sold.” Annual passes currently cost $35, but Merrill said that will likely rise to $40 in January. She had said that the cost of an annual pass could rise to $45.
Merrill said that the parks board is still working on its revised business plan, and that the board could approve it at a meeting in May. The total parks budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, would be $30.4 million. General fund dollars for parks would drop 79.4 percent from $6.7 million to $1.39 million. Most of the parks budget, $23 million, comes from dedicated funds, including park entrance fees.
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