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TPWD Implements Land and Water Plan, Ramps Up Park Repairs, Manages 5% Cut in 2011 Budget
AUSTIN – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will focus spending next year around a revised strategic plan created with input from stakeholders and field staff, plus continue major repairs and improvements at dozens of state parks as part of the agency’s 2011 budget.
Like all state agencies, TPWD gets authorization to spend money in the form of appropriations from the Texas Legislature. Appropriations come in two-year increments, and since 2011 is the second half of the state’s 2010-2011 biennium, much of TPWD’s financial profile is similar to last year.
The fiscal year 2011 operating and capital budget approved Aug. 26 by the TPW Commission totals $423.2 million, down from $468.8 million in 2010, though higher than 2009’s $402.9 million. However, TPWD’s biggest operating line item, for employee salaries and personnel costs, has stayed close to the same, at $148 million in 2011 compared to $146.3 million in 2010. The large changes in budget numbers are attributed to TPWD’s capital budget.
For 2011, the capital budget for construction and repairs is $125.3 million, compared to $158.5 million in 2010 and $101.1 million in 2011. Capital construction and repair projects can have life cycles from one to five years depending on the complexity of the work, and bond funding is critical to these projects. These figures mostly reflect bond funding provided by the legislature and approved by statewide voters to make improvements at state parks and historic sites. (See Spring Brings Host of Texas State Parks Repair Projects.)
In developing the 2011 budget, the department made good use of the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan (Land and Water Plan). This plan was revised in 2010 after a year-long process involving 12 regional forums based on river watersheds to promote dialogue and planning with outside stakeholders and field staff.
The 2011 budget will focus on implementing the Land and Water Plan’s four main goals: (1) Practice, encourage and enable science-based stewardship of natural and cultural resources; (2) Increase access to and participation in the outdoors; (3) Educate, inform and engage Texas citizens in support of conservation and recreation; and (4) Employ efficient, sustainable and sound business practices. The Land and Water Plan complements TPWD’s legislatively-directed strategic plan called the Natural Agenda, which sets the framework for developing the agency’s Legislative Appropriations Request.
The 2011 approved funding will enable TPWD to fulfill action items set in the Land and Water Plan, such as stocking a total of 39 million fingerlings in Texas waters, 24 million in Texas bays and 15 million in rivers, lakes and reservoirs; and increasing the number of acres under TPWD Wildlife Management Plans from 23.5 million to 26 million acres by December 2011, to cite two examples.
Like all state agencies, the department is also coping with a state-mandated 5 percent budget reduction due to reduced state revenue because of the down economy. For 2011, these cuts will limit TPWD’s options and capabilities in several areas, but they should not disrupt core services and programs. The 2011 cuts total $13.1 million, including:
- $1.3 million – represents 5 percent of the total $25.2 million TPWD passes to the General Land Office to fund coastal erosion projects
- $1.1 million – unexpended funds due to data migration and transformation delays by the Data Center Services vendor
- $228,000 – reflects canceled plans to create a new off-highway vehicle state park in the Texas Panhandle along the Canadian River.
- $5.8 million — reduces TPWD’s ability to fund grants to cities and counties for local park projects
- $2.3 million — eliminates merit pay and retention programs that reward outstanding employee performance
- $1.4 million — reduces funds for capital repair and construction needs at agency facilities
- $881,000 — reduces funds for equipment replacement, including vehicles, boats, tractors and other equipment
- $100,000 — reduces functionality of a new integrated financial system by delaying implementation of some reporting functions
Background detail on TPWD financial affairs is available in links to budgets and strategic plans on the department website.
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