Facing a projected $7.4 billion in revenue shortfalls, New York Governor David Paterson proposed a “budget of necessity” last week that holds state spending to a 0.6% increase over 2009-2010 levels and primarily closes the revenue gap through $5.5 billion in recurring spending reductions. The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) is proposed to be cut by $32.5 million, representing a 20% cut over the current fiscal year. These cuts will result in a permanent staff reduction of 67 positions, continued reductions in seasonal staff, and $20 million in reductions required from facility operational expenses. After a 2009 season that saw service reductions in the form of staff cuts and service hour restrictions at state park facilities, budget cuts this year will result in the outright closing of certain state park facilities. State Historic Sites and rural Upstate parks are likely to be disproportionately affected, as the agency seeks to triage park facility closures based on visitor numbers and income generation. More details will be provided by the agency in the coming weeks.
The State Park Infrastructure Fund is proposed to be cut 40%, leaving OPRHP $10 million in FY 2010-2011 funds at a time when the agency continues to project $650 million in capital needs to address infrastructure and facility maintenance throughout the park system. This latest $42 million reduction to the agency’ 2010-11 budget is in addition to $46 million in cuts since 2008, a 40% reduction in the agency’ budget since 2008.
Environmental Protection Fund (EPF):
The EPF is New York’s primary environmental funding account, established in 1993 and funded through dedicated revenues from real estate transfer tax revenues. This fund allocates environmental funding in three major categories: Open Space, Parks and Recreation, and Solid Waste programs. The Parks and Recreation funding is the source of the New York’s only grant fund for historic preservation, the Historic Preservation Grants Fund, which provides matching grants to municipalities and not-for-profits for capital improvements to historic properties. Over the past several years, environmental advocates in Albany have successfully pushed for increased allocations and had targeted 2010 as the year the fund would reach $500 million in annual appropriations. Instead, advocates will be fighting to hold on to a proposed $143 million in total EPF funding for FY 2010-2011, a 35% reduction from last year’ funding level.
In addition, the State’s open space land acquisition program is proposed to be zeroed out, leaving organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and Open Space Institute with no opportunity to be reimbursed for significant land purchases in recent years. The Municipal Parks grants fund is proposed to be cut 42%, leaving $12 million to be allocated among grants for state heritage areas, historic preservation projects, and municipal parks projects.
Reprinted by permission of the Public Policy Department of the National Trust