CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Tomblin administration official said Thursday West Virginia state parks need an immediate influx of cash or the parks will have to close and people will be laid off.
State Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss said a number of issues have combined to put parks in a budget crunch.
“They simply have not had the resources to run the park system they way they are running it,” Kiss said.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin introduced two supplemental budget bills Thursday. The first would provide $2.8 million for the day-to-day operations of the state parks including meeting payroll. The second, for $3.7 million, would help Canaan Valley State Park and Resort out of a hole created when there was a delayed opening to the new lodge.
State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said the financial struggles of the park system are nothing new. He said a system that usually barely makes it was hit hard by the Derecho and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He said the delay at Canaan Valley, one of the system’s biggest money makers, was also a big hit.
“While these are large numbers and we certainly appreciate the attention they’re getting, they are not new numbers. We have been trying to keep the legislature up to date for quite some time,” Burdette said.
Commerce hopes to give lawmakers detailed information before the legislative session is over on each park’s financial situation. Burdette said only one state park, Chief Logan, generates enough money to pay its own bills and helps pay the bills of other parks.
State Budget Director Mike McKown told members of the Senate Finance Committee Thursday the park system has enough money to meet one more payroll.
The funding of state parks has been an ongoing issue for the last several years, prompting some calls that the state charge an entrance fee like many other states.
That’s an issue for the state Department of Commerce and the legislature, but Kiss added, “They need to come up with a long-term plan because you can’t keep coming back every year and looking for additional subsidy to keep from laying off a large number of employees in the state park system.”
He said the legislature would have to approve the additional money by the end of January to avoid shutdowns and layoffs.