My previous post discussed some troubling FDEP proposals for more logging and cattle grazing in state parks. Concerns about park financing don’t have to bounce from one odd idea to another. There are serious scholars addressing these questions, as well as information-dense studies of state park finances.
For example, Margaret Walls, at Resources for the Future, published her 2013 study, “Paying for State Parks: Evaluating Alternative Approaches for the 21st Century.” She carefully analyzed many possible financing mechanisms including user fees, privatization of visitor services, dedicated public funds, and voluntary private contributions. (I didn’t see grazing leases or timber payments as an option.) If we wanted to figure out how to finance state parks on a stable and fair basis, an independent study specific to Florida could provide answers.
Is Florida putting an unusual amount of money into park operations? Nope. In fact, the opposite is true. Data from the “National Association of State Park Directors” shows Florida is a comparative cheapskate. In FY2010-2011, the Florida State Park Operating Budget was only 0.121% of the total state budget, compared to the 50-state average of 0.221%. (2011- 2012 Annual Information Exchange Report, Table 5C: Financing – Parks’ Share of State Expenditures)
Florida also stands out in the proportion of revenue the parks generate themselves. In 2010-2011, Florida state parks generated 66% of total operating revenue, which far exceeds the state average of 42%. (Table 5A: Financing – Operating Expenditures)
In short, running Florida parks costs less than in most other states and the current park system generates more money for operations than in most other states. The real question is why eccentric ideas for squeezing even more money out of state parks are being circulated.