Roaring River State Park was not immune from statewide layoffs announced recently by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
According to Roaring River State Park Superintendent Dusty Reid, the layoffs went into effect on Nov. 15 with Roaring River losing two maintenance positions and one office support staff. One of the three positions was vacant at the time of the layoffs.
The layoffs were necessary because of declining sales tax revenue that makes up two-thirds of the state parks budget. Statewide, 48 parks employees were laid off, 42 vacant positions were eliminated and nine people retired.
"Sales tax revenue was off significantly," said Judd Slivka, spokesman for DNR, which encompasses the Division of State Parks. "In October we were expecting sales tax to drop by 8 percent but we were down 11 percent."
According to Slivka, the Parks Division payroll is $100,000 a day. In making decisions on how to cut expenses, furloughs were considered, but to spare the layoffs necessary to reduce the parks payroll, each employee would have to take a 29 percent pay cut, Slivka said.
"The park leadership agonized over this," said Slivka. "The decisions (on the layoffs) were characterized to me as gut wrenching. These were very difficult decisions to make."
For the remainder of the state's fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2010, the park layoffs are expected to save the state $3 million. The savings will increase to $6 million for the next fiscal year.
The layoffs were done in an "even-handed" manner, according to Slivka, and were spread out among parks statewide.
"We didn't have any parks that weren't affected," said Slivka.
Reducing Roaring River State Park's 16-person staff by three positions can't help but have its affect on the local park, Reid said.
"This affects us in overall grounds maintenance, and it also affects us on the customer service side in the office," said Reid. "We are going to do everything we can so these layoffs have a minimal effect on our park visitors, but they may notice some things have changed."
Currently, Reid and the Roaring River State Park staff are creating alternative work schedules, which include rotating night and weekend shifts, and Reid has submitted a request with the state office to reduce the number of hours the camp fee office is open.
Traditionally, the camp fee office has been open and staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Reid has asked that he be allowed to close the office on slow evenings and slow mornings.
"We'll provide the minimal number of hours we can without affecting the quality of service for our campers," Reid said.
Until the state office approves Reid's request, Reid as well as Assistant Superintendent Kerry Hayes will help fill in at the fee office by working one morning a week there.
"We're all going to have to pitch in and help," Reid said.
To make up for decreased staffing, Reid will be relying more on volunteers and is also researching federal work programs, like Experience Works, to supplement his work force.
"We are looking at alternate resources for labor whether it's interns, volunteers or federal training programs," Reid said.
In the past, the park has been given a seasonal budget that allows them to hire part-time workers during the summer months. Last year money to hire seasonal workers was cut by 50 percent, and Reid said he does not expect to see that money restored in next year's budget.
The morale among the park staff is improving, according to Reid.
"Initially it was very hard, because we were losing long-time members of the state parks family and friends we have worked with for a long time," said Reid.
"But for the big picture, we have to focus on our mission statement," Reid added. "Everyone is trying to pitch in, do their part and do what it takes."