The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is meeting in Saint Augustine to discuss, among other things, budget requests for the coming year.
The commission is requesting $21.7 million—a roughly two percent increase on the current budget. Commission CFO Charlotte Jerrett says some of that funding will support bear proof trash cans.
“For $500,000, for general revenue funding,” Jerrett tells the commissioners. “I want to make sure you understand that there will not be any bear permit fees to use this year so we are requesting this from the general revenue fund to continue that effort.”
The commission won’t have those fees because it called off this year’s bear hunt after stiff public criticism. But Commissioner Robert Spottswood sees that as positive—noting the agency is largely self-sufficient, relying on general revenue for only about nine percent of its budget.
“To think that over seventy percent of all the costs incurred by FWC are paid for by the sale of licenses and permits, is really amazing,” Spottswood says.
But finding money for the commission’s requests could be difficult. State economists are projecting fewer dollars in Florida’s coffers next year, and so a different list could become more important when state lawmakers start drawing up the budget.
“As part of our submission, we do have to come up with a list of potential reductions,” Jerrett explains, “in the event the Legislature has to make cuts.”
“And I want to be very clear that this is not anything that staff is proposing be reduced, but we do have to comply with the exercise and so it’s tough to get to ten percent.”
Every state agency has to come up with a similar list. The Wildlife commission’s includes reductions in funding for fighting invasive plants, eliminating red tide research and monitoring, and cutting as many as 34 employees. But staffers warn many of those cuts would also mean losing out on federal grant funding.