Tahlequah Daily Press

February 5, 2014

Governor proposes putting OSRC under Tourism umbrella

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — During her State of the State address Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin unveiled her budget proposal for the upcoming year, which would cut funding to many state agencies by 5 percent.

Several agencies are also being eyed for consolidation, including the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission.

Under Fallin’s plan, the OSRC, along with the Oklahoma Historical Society, the J.M. Davis Memorial Commission and the Will Rogers Memorial Commission, would be merged with the Oklahoma State Department of Tourism, with a overall budget cut of $3.8 million, or 9.5 percent.

OSRC Administrator Ed Fite said he doesn’t know that tourism is the best fit for the agency.

“We want to do what best serves the state, but we’re an environmental agency, not a tourism agency,” said Fite.

According to OSRC budget data, since 2009, when the agency changed the way it charges user fees to float operators, the OSRC’s revenue has fallen about 22 percent for the five-year period.

In the past, float operators charged a $1 user fee per person for rentals of commericial flotation devices or rafts, which was remitted to the OSRC. Those fees historically generated about $125,000 per year for the agency.

Additionally, the OSRC has seen its state appropriations cut by 21 percent for the same five-year period.

“We’ve already put off equipment purchases and will not be hiring seasonal staff for the summer,” said Fite. “If we take much more of a cut, we’ll have to look at reduction in force unless we identify another revenue source.”

Fite said he intends to present the information to the board of commissioners and the next meeting, slated for 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center.