SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today plans to expand recreational and educational opportunities across the state through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The proposed budget for IDNR includes funding for new and upgraded facilities and programs at state parks.
The Fiscal Year 2005 proposed spending plan for the IDNR is $190.7 million, a nearly $20 million reduction from Fiscal Year 2004. The FY05 General Revenue Fund (GRF) budget is $96.4 million, an $11.0 million decrease from the current year. The department’s proposed head count in FY05 is 1,842, down from 1,990 in the current year. The proposed budget redirects funding to the priority programs indicated below.
The budget includes $3.6 million in new funding to meet the operational needs at newly acquired or expanded sites, including visitor centers. Nearly 60,000 acres in 57 counties have been added to the park system during the last few years and additional programs have been added at several sites.
“Maintaining our parks for public enjoyment is one of our core missions,” said Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold. “Investing in our parks for the people of Illinois is a sound fiscal choice in these tough fiscal times.”
The department is also aggressively pursuing new ideas in FY05 that focus on consolidation and accessibility of services. For example, IDNR is working to implement a point of sale system that would enable citizens to purchase a variety of licenses electronically on a locally accessible system.
“This new, state-of-the-art system is a new way of doing business that will provide tremendous convenience to the constituents we serve,” Brunsvold said.
In an effort to increase efficiency of public services, the Bureau of Land and Water Resources from the Department of Agriculture will be consolidated into the Department of Natural Resources. The bureau will continue to provide financial, technical and educational assistance to the 98 local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) throughout the state. SWCDs provide rural and urban citizens with technical assistance and educational information on a variety of topics including, erosion control, water quality protection, wildlife habitat preservation, flood prevention, land use issues and streambank stabilization.
In FY05, the department will devote $240,900 to assist urban communities with revitalization and greening initiatives such as tree planting, vacant land and pocket park enhancement, green roof projects and the trimming or removal of trees for public safety.
Also in FY05, $283,700 is dedicated to expanded natural resource safety education efforts in northeastern Illinois.
In an effort to balance the budget, the Open Space Land Acquisition programs, as well as programs supported by Natural Areas Acquisition Funds have been eliminated from IDNR’s FYO5 budget. These programs were supported by diversions of the real estate transfer tax, which will now be deposited in the General Revenue Fund.