Budget cuts hit Louisiana state parks, museums
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Military history enthusiasts and fans of football great Eddie Robinson can explore museums celebrating their interests only three days each week. Children on summer vacation will have less time to splash and swim in state-run pools. Visitors to Louisiana’s historic sites and a trail of small museums crisscrossing the state will find trimmed-down schedules.
In the heart of the summer tourism and vacation season, Louisiana’s state-run recreational areas, parks and educational pastimes are shrinking visitors’ hours and cutting staff time to cope with lessened funding as the new budget year began July 1.
“This is certainly the busiest of times,” said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who oversees the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. “We’re trying to be smart and careful in the changes that we’re implementing so as to minimize the impact to the customer. We’re trying to do the best we can in the most reasonable manner.”
With the start of the 2011-12 fiscal year, Dardenne’s office announced limitations to operating hours at state parks and pools. Historic sites will be open five days a week, instead of seven days a week, pools at a half dozen state parks will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and entrance stations at all state parks will have shorter hours.
The combined budget of the lieutenant governor’s office and his Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism fell from $113 million in the just-ended budget year to $95 million this year, about a 16 percent reduction. Last year, the parks raised fees to fill some gaps, but Dardenne said no further increases are planned.
Worsening the parks’ money difficulties, the budget backed by lawmakers and the Jindal administration shifted $7 million from a facility maintenance fund to operations, meaning if Dardenne uses all of the dollars to operate the parks, the facilities won’t be able to make repairs or do general maintenance when the needs arise. So, Dardenne is trying to lessen operational spending by cutting park hours and reducing staff.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Tom Schedler announced a dozen small museums around Louisiana will slash their hours next week, including the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, the Shreveport Water Works Museum, the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame and Museum in Abbeville and the Eddie G. Robinson Museum honoring the legendary Grambling State University football coach.
The museums will each be open three days a week, either Wednesday through Friday or Thursday through Saturday, to shrink work hours for museum employees and cut costs.
Schedler called the museum hour reductions a difficult decision, but said it was the best way to cope with an $862,000 cut to museum funding without laying off workers or closing facilities entirely.
Louisiana State Parks: www.LaStateParks.com
Museums run by the Secretary of State: www.sos.louisiana.gov/tabid/69/Default.aspx
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