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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Natural Resources and Environmental Quality Appropriations: 2.7.13

Funding for Division of Parks and Recreation, a UCA member, was discussed. This division oversees 43 state parks (which includes several museums), and also oversees boating & off-highway vehicle safety

The Budget Request
  • View the parks budget brief here: http://www.le.utah.gov/lfa/reports/BBIB/APPNAE_2-7-12_1.pdf
  • Governor’s budget: $28,102,500
  • About a $3mill increase. 
  • Includes:
    • a one-time appropriation of $2 million from the State Park Fees account and $800,000 from the OHV restricted account for backfill, and 
    • an ongoing appropriation of $448,300 from the OHV restricted account for a funding correction.
  • budget has been cut nearly $10 million since 2009 (in 2011 alone, the general fund was cut from just under $10 million to just under $4 million)
  • Budget detail over time: http://le.utah.gov/interim/2013/pdf/00000678.pdf

Division of Parks and Recreation Report
  • Presented by Scott Hays (director of DPR)
  • boating safety money comes from Coast Guard
  • Fees: Parks is reorganizing how they charge fees. The Division will set a maximum, and then the park operators have flexibility to adjust the fees up or down as needed (such as less busy times to encourage more people to come). Restructuring of fees is expected to be revenue neutral. You can look at them here: http://le.utah.gov/interim/2013/pdf/00000686.pdf
  • Reps. Noel and McKill had questions about the new fee structure, they thought it would be difficult to explain the fee structure to their constituents and asked for the Division and Fiscal Analyst to provide more detailed information. 
  • Rep. Wiley wanted to know the criterion for establishing fees. A: in past, based on inflationary scale. New fee structure will be business/competition driven (i.e. if it gets too high, people will stop coming)
  • Sen. Dayton asked a question: are we considering getting rid of some of these state parks if we don’t have the funds to maintain them? Sen. Hinkins responded that the goal is making them self-sufficient. The director also explained that most of the appropriation from the general fund (that isn’t covered by the parks’ income) goes directly to This is the Place as it is a state asset. It is its own nonprofit, but they are legislatively mandated to give them funds through State Parks’ budget. Rep. Noel did say that this committee has been incredibly frugal, and spoke to the importance of the state providing for these parks and the benefit they bring to the local economies. These state parks invite a lot of out of state visitors and called the State Parks the “best deal in town.”
  • Last few minutes a discussion of the golf courses -- ran out of time but committee wants a more detailed discussion.

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