Editor's note: This is the corrected version of a story that ran in Wednesday's Bryan County News. The original story said the DNR faced upward $11 billion in budget cuts. It should have read $11 million. The News regrets the error.
State parks, golf courses, campgrounds, aquariums, lodges and a myriad of state employment positions are just some of the things on the chopping block thanks to state budget cutbacks.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is taking a hit from state cuts, with a possible budget decrease upwards of $11 million for 2009.
"The DNR follows direction set by the legislature. They come to us and say ‘We want the state to have this,’" said DNR Public Affairs Coordinator Kim Hatcher. "This year, all state agencies were asked to submit recommendations for six, eight and 10 percent cuts for 2009."
While Hatcher said the budget reduction submittal was approved, the funding amounts and areas where cuts will be made are still unknown. There is also an unspecified list of possible closings.
"I haven’t seen the proposed list, but there is a possibility of 13 sites – six state parks and seven historic sites – that could be shut down next year," she said. "This list hasn’t been presented yet, however, because we don’t want people to be concerned because none of the closings have been approved."
Locally, Fort McAllister is currently short three maintenance positions, "without any relief in sight," said Fort McAllister Park Director Danny Brown, noting their operating budgets have been cut by six percent already. "Grass cutting and grounds maintenance has been reduced but visitor services staff are providing time to keep the facilities clean among their regular duties."
Hatcher said while the DNR has sustained budget cuts since 2002, the hiring freeze was implemented during the past few months.
"One of the things that DNR has had to do is hold vacant positions open and not fill them. We’ve had a shortage of employees, about one opening for every five positions," she said.
Ray Luce, state director of the Historic Preservation division of the DNR, said three areas of their division were submitted for cutbacks: their grants program, which helps maintain county buildings such as courthouses and libraries; an employment position at the University of Georgia; and the Historic Preservation Planners.
"The governor and legislature are going to have some tough decisions," Luce said. "These aspects of our agency are all very important and cutting back on them is detrimental to the historic preservation of Georgia."
See more in Wednesday's Bryan County News.