BOISE – Steve Klatt, of Sandpoint, a former Bonner County commissioner and Sandpoint city councilman, has been elected chairman of Idaho’s state Board of Parks and Recreation at a time when Idaho’s state parks system faces unprecedented challenges.
This year, after talk of possible park closures, lawmakers set a budget for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation that’s 58 percent below the current year’s level in state general funds and 19 percent down in total funds. Plus, they passed a law declaring that on July 1, 2010, the parks department will stop getting the $4.7 million it now receives annually from the state gas tax – 13 percent of the department’s remaining overall budget.
Klatt said his primary goal as chairman will be to help the department through the financial downturn and try to position it to “continue positively impacting recreational access in Idaho.”
Klatt has served on the state parks board since 2004; this will be his first two-year term as its chairman.
The shift of gas tax funds away from the parks department was part of a session-ending deal between lawmakers and Gov. Butch Otter to find a stopgap way to direct more money to road maintenance in Idaho. The deal also shifts nearly $18 million in gas tax funds away from the Idaho State Police on the same date.
A state task force, meeting between now and next January, will work to identify a new funding source for the state police and parks department. If they fail, the two state agencies will compete with schools, prisons, health care and other state programs for money from the state’s general fund.