Parks Officials See Fee Hike In Near Future
State Parks and Recreation officials told legislative budget writers on Friday that the department is in tune with the Batt administration’s conservative spending philosophy but will have to raise user fees in 1996 to cope with escalating costs and declining federal support.
“Our board was committed to firmly support the policies and philosophical direction our state leadership chooses,” Board Chairman Monte Later told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “Our board senses this is the year when to be tight is in.”
But Department Director Yvonne Ferrell, citing significant increases in demand on parks, campgrounds and other state recreational facilities over the past five years, said the board this spring will consider boosting user fees for the 1996 season. She did not indicate how large an increase would be considered.
In addition, Ferrell said the department is reassessing both the level of facilities it should be providing in view of skyrocketing construction costs for campgrounds and other developments and the training it is providing rangers in light of escalating law enforcement problems in state parks.
It may well be that the state can no longer afford to build the kind of campgrounds and other facilities it has been providing, she said.
Ferrell also said the board hoped to have a formal recommendation for lawmakers next year on an alternative source of financial support for the state parks and recreation system to cope with the decline in federal funds.
But while the committee has been trying to go GOP Gov. Phil Batt one better in budget cutting, a majority of the Republicans refused to adopt the governor’s scaled back proposal to shave cash from the existing budget.
After consulting with Batt Budget Director Dean Van Engelen, the department proposed a $131,000 reduction in current spending that included a savings of $100,000 in general tax revenues. But the committee majority, led by eastern Idaho conservatives, cut that by $26,000, agreeing to continue financing a ranger on the Ashton-Tetonia trail.
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