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Source: Rochester City Newspapers

Parks may be open, but at what cost?


Posted: May 31, 2010
Originally Published: May 28, 2010

Under a deal between Governor David Paterson and legislative leaders, state officials will reopen 55 parks.

They'll use money intended for a dedicated environmental fund that was never meant to fund parks operations.

Under the deal, legislators would divert $80 million from the state's Environmental Protection Fund. But only $6 million of that will be used to fund the parks. The other $74 million will go into the state's general fund, though some of the money will be used for tax payments to local governments, spending that is typically not supported by the EPF. The deal also includes increased penalties for violating environmental laws or generating hazardous waste. That would generate an estimated $4 million for the EPF. The deal also includes an e-waste recycling program.

The state Assembly has passed the legislation, but the Senate hasn't acted.

Dereth Glance, program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, says her organization is happy that parks will remain open. But it's upset that the EPF will suffer a significant funding decrease. It would still be funded at $134 million, but that's down from the $212 million in 2009-10.

The EPF provides money for open-space preservation as well as water quality projects, so they'll take a hit. Glance says the plan will reduce water quality improvement program funding to $2 million; it's typically funded at about $8 million. The state will need $32.6 billion for sewer infrastructure over the next 20 years, she says.

"These are the programs that need to continue in a sustained way," Glance says.