Good news for the Blue Hills – and for all our parks.
Many thanks to our members and supporters who advocated for adequate funding for the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Your voices were heard.
Last week, the legislature sent a $56.2 billion Fiscal Year 2024 budget to Gov. Healey for her consideration which included $105.6 million for the Parks and Recreation Operations account (2810-0100). Gov. Maura Healey has 10 days from when the budget was submitted on July 31st to review and approve/veto any of the provisions.
The House-Senate Conference Committee, which reconciles the differences between the House and Senate proposed budgets, actually proposed a higher amount than either chamber proposed originally. According to the Massachusetts Conservation Voters, this is a rare event… and surely shows that your advocacy for our parks is paying off.
The House had proposed $103.1 million for the Parks and Recreation Operations account, while the Senate came in at $104.9 million, both considerably more than the $85 million appropriated for that account for FY23, which ended June 30. But the Conference Committee proposed to fund this account at $105.6 million.
In terms of raw numbers that’s a $20.6 million increase, a little more than double the increase DCR received from FY22 to FY23. However, a proposal from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and the Executive Office of Administration & Finance (A&F), independent of anything the Legislature has proposed, could serve to considerably reduce the new dollars available in the operations account.
Certainly, a budget to celebrate.
If the governor approves the budget, however, the full benefits of the increase may not be felt immediately. DCR has indicated that it wants to move $14 million in existing salaries and related expenses the agency has been paying out of a capital account(s) over to the operations account. The agency shifted some salary positions from operations to the capital side in the during the deep cuts to its budget during the 2008 recession. While it’s understandable that the agency would want to adjust its accounting, we support the Mass Conservation Voters, the DCR Stewardship Council, and the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation in requesting that the DCR consider breaking that transfer up over two years, $7.0 million each year. This would give DCR an additional $7.0 million in new money this fiscal year. Those additional dollars could go a long way toward fixing the stark lack of resources DCR and park users have experienced over the last decade. Thanks to the Massachusetts Conservation Voters for the budget summary.
Budget Increase for Other Environmental Agencies
The budget not only increased funding for our state parks, but for other environmental agencies as well. That will translate directly to protecting nature and our health. You’ll find below the budget increases for environmental agencies. Thanks to our friends at the Mass Rivers Alliance for the funding summary.
DCR State Parks and Recreation
Last year (FY23): $85 million
This year (FY24): $105.6 million
Office of Environmental Justice
Last year (FY23): $1.3 million
This year (FY24): $8.8 million
Department of Environmental Protection
Last year (FY23): $45.4 million
This year (FY24): $52 million
The Division of Ecological Restoration
Last year (FY23): $4.3 million
This year (FY24): $5.4 million
Climate Adaptation & Preparedness
Last year (FY23): $5.4 million
This year (FY24): $10 million
Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program
Last year (FY23): $1 million
This year (FY24): $1.5 million
DCR Office of Watershed Management
Last year (FY23): $1.7 million
This year (FY24): $1.8 million
Photo credit: Brian MacLean