(updated September 2011)
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission submitted the 2012 Supplemental Budget proposal (PDF file) to the Office of Financial Management and Governor Gregoire.
The 2011-13 Operating Budget for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is $148.6 million. The budget is made up of:
- $17.2 million in real dollars from the State General Fund
- $100.8 million in spending authority for revenue from donations and revenue earned from fees
- $15.6 million in dedicated funds including federal dollars for special recreation programs such as boating safety and winter recreation
- $15 million in unallotted spending authority which can only be used if revenue is earned.
The 2011-13 budget represents a dramatic change in the way that State Parks operations are funded, shifting away from mostly general fund tax support to a system based on user fees. The agency has gone from a funding base of more than 60 percent general fund tax support in 2007-09, to 30 percent general fund in 2009-11. In 2011-13, the State Parks budget is comprised of only 12 percent general fund, with the expectation of zero general fund next biennium (2013-15.)
The 2011 Legislature created the Discover Pass to generate revenue that would help replace general fund dollars no longer available to cover the costs of operating parks. In addition to the Discover Pass, the 2011 Legislature chose to leave in place the State Parks donation program associated with the Department of Licensing vehicle license renewal process. This is another way the public can support the state park system.
The majority of State Parks' operating budget is comprised of projected dollars not yet earned, provided in the budget as "spending authority." Where historically the agency relied most heavily on money "in the bank" from general fund, now the largest chunk of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission's operating dollars are in "spending authority," money not yet in hand. This portion of the agency budget is projected; actual working funds are unknown until collected. State Parks cannot spend more than it earns, even if it has the spending authority, because it must balance its budget.
The following charts show how State Parks' funding makeup has changed since 2007.
Operating Budget Comparison
In 2011-13, operating funds are allocated as follows:
- 79 percent – park operations and support (i.e., law enforcement, stewardship, volunteer programs)
- 12 percent administration (i.e., human resources, technology, fiscal and budget, public information.)
- 9 percent for dedicated programs and special recreation
To deal with the challenges and uncertainties presented by a budget based largely on dollars not yet collected, State Parks is managing things very closely, month to month. Like other state agencies, State Parks has made significant reductions in the past three years. The agency cut programs and laid off staff, consolidated region offices from four to three and left staffing vacancies open. By restricting travel and purchasing beyond state restrictions, by continuing to hold vacancies open, and by redistributing staff, the agency is being responsible in its cash management. The agency has worked hard to keep funds in reserve to help weather fluctuations in donations and fee collections, with the intention of keeping parks open for the public as long as possible.