Fee increases and budget cuts on table
PRATT -- As a result of reduced revenues, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has requested that all state agencies, including the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP), cut their budgets by 3 percent in the current fiscal year (FY) and as much as 5 percent in FY 2010. However, budget cuts and revenues were on the table for KDWP before Gov. Sebelius’ request. In recent years, KDWP’s revenues haven’t kept pace with spending. Popular and successful programs such as Walk-In Hunting Access, F.I.S.H., Upland Bird Initiative, Community Lakes Assistance Program, and public land acquisitions have grown while operating costs such as fuel, utilities, salaries, benefits, and materials have gone up.

Without changes, analysts predict that the Wildlife Fee Fund would be overspent by $1.5 million in 2011 and more than $4 million by 2012. KDWP is looking for ways to cut spending and increase revenues.

“While it’s always good to examine current programs and improve efficiency, our constituents are accustomed to a certain level of services,” said Keith Sexson, KDWP assistant secretary. “To maintain those services, a balance of budget cuts and increased revenue is a desirable solution.”

KDWP staff is reviewing all fees. General hunting and fishing license fees haven’t been increased since 2002. The resident turkey permit fee hasn’t increased since 1980, and the resident deer permit fee has been $30 since 1985. Draft recommendations for fee increases were presented to the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission at its Jan. 8 meeting in Emporia. To see draft fee recommendations, click here. Public comment on fees is being accepted, and recommendations will be discussed again in a public forum at the commission’s next meeting on March 12 in Topeka. After commission, staff and public input is received, recommendations will be considered by the commission this spring and voted on next summer to take effect Jan. 1, 2010.

Department staff will also investigate marketing strategies that will increase revenues, including value-added packages and differential pricing.

“Improving efficiencies and examining programs will be beneficial in the long run,” Sexson said. “Simply raising fees isn’t the answer, nor would it provide a long-term solution.”

These are difficult economic times, but KDWP staff are committed to maintaining important services and programs. Interested persons can express concerns and opinions by attending a commission meeting this spring, calling 620-672-5911, or emailing mikegm@wp.state.ks.us.