Auburn and Folsom state recreation areas wont benefit from $54 million recently found stashed in California State Parks budget.
Local recreation officials said the 25-year partnership between the two recreation areas and the US Bureau of Reclamation that was signed last January prevents any of the newly found money from potentially being allocated to Auburn or Folsom Lake by the governor.
No, that money will go to the governor to be appropriated, but it should have no impact on Auburn Recreation Area or any of the units associated with the agreement, said Matt Green, superintendent of the Gold Fields District of State Parks.
That means the recreation areas will continue to be, in Greens words, self-sustaining through revenue it generates partially through fees and supplemental funding it gets from the Bureau of Reclamation. On July 1, new fees were added to parking areas in the Auburn and Folsom Lake state recreation areas or existing fees were increased.
For example, parking along the road in the Auburn State Recreation Area was free before, but on July 1 a $10-per-day fee was imposed in the confluence area and in the Lake Clementine area boat launching fees were also increased to $10.
California State Parks recently found $54 million of unspent money in its budget due to underreporting of funds to the state Department of Finance for the last 12 years, according to a press release by the state Natural Resources Agency.
Roughly $20.3 million of recreation funds and more than $33.4 million off-highway vehicle funds were unused by State Parks, the release stated.
Katy Veling, of Auburn, was enjoying the confluence area near Auburn on Wednesday and said she wishes the $54 million could be used to either lessen or do away with the fees. She even said the new parking fee has kept her away from her favorite swimming spot on the American River.
Thats totally a shame. I know plenty of people who are upset about the fees, Veling said.
Roy Johannesen, of Colfax, was also enjoying the confluence area on Thursday and said the money that was found needs to be used responsibly.
I think this should be investigated, a reason should be located and the $54 million should be spent wisely, Johannesen said.
After the underreported funds were made public, Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned from her position.
The state Attorney Generals Office is now looking into State Parks and the departments finances. The governor has also called for the state Department of Finance to conduct a separate investigation.
Clark Blanchard, spokesman for the state Natural Resources Agency, said the next step is to work with the Legislature to ensure any parks that were approaching closure stay open.
We are committed to getting to the bottom of this and righting this ship, as well as restoring the publics trust in the department, Blanchard said.
Green feels the same way.
There are a lot of park employees that are working very hard to support their units and had nothing to do with this process and I hope the public can distinguish that, Green said.
Where those $54 million in available funds go now is up to the governor and Legislature, but Green and Mike Lynch, superintendent of the Auburn State Recreation Area, both know that they wont be seeing any of that money.
Under the agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, any revenue generated within the Auburn and Folsom Lake state recreation areas goes directly into supporting the operating and maintenance costs of both areas. Before, those revenues would have gone into the State Parks budget.
Those monies go back into sustaining these two units, which is why this agreement is so unique and acts as a mechanism that allows us to keep those revenues to pay for our ongoing operational costs, Green said.
The Bureau also provides up to $2.5 million to the two recreation areas annually to make up for any operational deficit, according to the agreement.
Though Lynch knows the agreement keeps his recreation area from benefitting from the unearthed extra funds at the state level, he knows it could mean big things for others.
So they found this $54 million and it doesnt affect us at all, but there will be a lot of impact everywhere else, Lynch said.
State Sen. Ted Gaines represents District 1, which includes Auburn, and stretches from Mono County to Modoc County near the Oregon border. He said he has received multiple calls from constituents angry about underreported funds by State Parks. His concern is that if $54 million can go undetected by one state agency, what about others?
As a small business owner the most important documents I look at are my balance sheet and income statement to first determine if Im losing money or if Im making money, Gaines said. Were expected to be posted on that as business owners and we should expect the same from our government agencies.
Contact Amber Marra at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.