TN state parks could cut jobs, close amenities to meet budget reductions

9:38 AM, Nov 18, 2009   |    comments
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By Anne Paine, The Tennessee 

A possible 9 percent cut in the state's environment and parks budget would slice inn, cabin and campground maintenance funds, 141 jobs - mostly seasonal and part-time workers - and could close a few pools, golf courses and restaurants.

Closings would only happen as a last resort, said Jim Fyke, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The department submitted its proposal Monday during the opening day of state budget hearings, which resume today and will continue until next Monday.

The pools could be replaced with spray and splash pads, and other facilities in question could possibly be leased out, he said after a state budget hearing Monday.

"The cost of swimming pools versus the actual time of use has just gotten exorbitant," Fyke said after the hearing.

If needed, the restaurant at Henry Horton State Park could be leased, and golf courses might be closed at Old Stone Fort in Manchester and T.O. Fuller in Memphis. Any changes would not come until after Labor Day of 2010. Fyke said that the financing picture could change by then, depending on how well facilities perform this coming year

A 9 percent cut, which Gov. Phil Bredesen asked departments to prepare along with a 6 percent cut, would be equal to a $7.5 million reduction in the state-funded portion of the department's proposed $328 million budget.

General funds from the state make up about 23 percent of the department's budget. About 22 percent of the budget comes from federal funds, and the rest is generated through fees and dedicated funds. Those fees have been lower with less construction and other projects taking place that require environmental permits.

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