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Game and Fish sets dates for public input on fee increases

 

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has approved a proposal that would increase fees for most hunting and fishing licenses, tags, stamps and permits for use in 2007. The department sought the increases through the Arizona Legislature and a public rules review process. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has now set the dates for public input on the proposal, which will not become law until the department obtains final approval from the commission and the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council.

If approved, the new fees would help the department to meet increasing operating expenses and to address program priorities. The proposed changes include:

  • Increased fees for resident and nonresident big game hunt permit-tags, adoption of Class J and K family hunting and fishing licenses, and adoption of the Class L, M, and N super conservation hunting and fishing licenses.

  • An equal increase for resident and nonresident guide licenses.

  • A new class of junior hunt permit-tags for elk, deer, javelina and turkey at an equal cost for resident and nonresident youth.

  • Elimination of the proposed Class A premium hunt permit-tags for deer and elk.

Examples of the new pricing structure include a general resident fishing license going from $18 to $23.50, a resident elk tag increasing from $78 to $114, a resident deer tag going from $19.50 to $34.75, a resident combination hunt and fish license increasing from $44 to $54, and a youth combination hunt and fish license going from $25.50 to $26.50.

The department is also proposing rule changes to address the separate issue of hunter harassment. The proposed changes would allow the Game and Fish director to take preemptive law enforcement measures to prevent hunter harassment.

The department will accept written comments on both of these proposals from Jan. 6 to Feb. 6. The department will also accept oral comments at the Arizona Game and Fish Commission meeting tentatively scheduled for Feb. 10 and 11 at the Shilo Inn at 1550 S. Castle Dome Road in Yuma.

If you have any questions or comments, contact Carlos Ramirez, the department’s rule writer, at (623) 236-7288 or at rulemaking@azgfd.gov.

 

Frequently asked questions

Why did the commission and department ask for fee increases?

The fee increases sought to provide the department with revenue to meet rising costs of business and to address commission-identified priorities for the department. The department receives no share of state General Fund revenues. Licenses, stamps and tag fees constitute the department’s primary sources of revenues and are the foundation of a formula used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine Arizona’s federal funding for wildlife conservation.

What are some of the cost issues?

Fuel costs
Fuel costs have gone up dramatically. Gas prices in the Rocky Mountain region rose 36 percent from 2002-2004, and have gone up significantly again this year. Game and Fish Department employees drive more than 4.5 million miles per year on agency business.

Game ranger training and field costs
There are 74 wildlife manager districts in Arizona, with an average district size of 1,137 square miles. Training new officers takes 10 months and costs approximately $71,000 per officer.

Retirement contributions
Rising retirement costs have a big impact on the Game and Fish Fund budget. From fiscal year 2003 to fiscal year 2004, state-mandated retirement contributions rose from $399,520 to $970,555--an increase of 143 percent. In fiscal year 2006, retirement and health insurance costs to the agency will increase again by nearly another $1.1 million. Most state agencies receive money from the state's General Fund, so when the retirement contribution is increased, the state budget office typically increases those agencies’ budgets by the amount needed to cover the retirement costs. The Arizona Game and Fish Department receives no general fund money, so it has to come up with the retirement contributions out of its own funding.

Wildlife waters
Development costs range from $10,000 to $65,000 per catchment, depending on location and design. Material prices have gone up substantially in the past year.

What are some of the priorities that revenues from the fee increase will be used for?

Some of the priorities that the Arizona Game and Fish Commission has identified for the department include:

Employee raises
A top priority for the department is to raise employee salaries to a more competitive level. Arizona Game and Fish Department employees make 15 to 20 percent less than market averages, and also make significantly less than their counterparts in many other municipal and county public agencies. Arizona state workers are among the lowest paid state government employees when compared to the other 49 states. The few salary increases that have been implemented over the past five years have primarily been given to offset increased medical and retirement costs. Turnover among department employees has increased due to salary issues. A pay increase for employees is essential to retain valued employees and their knowledge, reduce training costs, and maintain high levels of customer service.

Wildlife habitat enhancements
Another top priority is to continue the department’s work with public and private landowners, and at state-owned wildlife areas, to improve habitat for wildlife. Examples include water developments, habitat improvement projects to help deer populations, and habitat treatments on public lands.

Recreational access and hunt opportunities
Resolving access issues to public land that is accessed through private land is a major focus of the department. The department will continue to work with landowners to negotiate easement agreements to assist with wildlife management and to provide access for hunters and anglers.

Pronghorn management and game species introduction
The department will continue stewardship and cooperative projects with private and public landowners to stabilize or increase pronghorn populations and reintroduce game species such as Gould’s turkey, Merriam’s turkey, and bighorn sheep.

More fishing opportunities
Investments would be made to improve fishing opportunities and quality for Arizona anglers. Activities would include necessary hatchery improvements at Silver Creek Hatchery in Navajo County, Canyon Creek and Tonto Creek hatcheries in Gila County, Page Springs Hatchery in Yavapai and Coconino counties. Funds would be used to acquire, grow and stock fish, and for angler recruitment programs.

Predator management
The department would look at an expanded program for estimating predator populations, such as coyotes and mountain lions, to ensure population stability and to minimize conflict with humans and adverse impacts on other species.

Shooting ranges
Funds would be invested in shooting range development and improvements statewide. The Flagstaff and Tucson areas would be targeted for accelerated development efforts, with improvements planned in eastern, northwestern and southeastern Arizona.

Service improvements
Customer service improvements would include hardware and database support for law enforcement, additional field officers, and facilities repairs and improvements necessary to support field operations in regional offices and rural areas. The goal: greater officer field presence and facility efficiency.

Family and youth recreation
Money would be invested in support of local sportsmen’s-and-women’s clubs to support youth programs and hunter recruitment efforts. Investments may take the form of direct support, expansion of sponsored youth events, or support for club involvement in the Scholastic Clay Target and Archery in the Schools programs.

Are there any price breaks for youth and families?
The department proposed no increases for youth license fees. In addition, there are some new family hunting and fishing licenses that provide a substantial price break to families.

How do hunting and fishing prices compare with other forms of recreation?
Hunting and fishing in Arizona will remain an outstanding value. Your licenses can be used all calendar year. Compare the cost and duration with other forms of recreation and entertainment:

Arizona resident general fishing license $18 (current fee) or $23.50 (proposed new fee) Up to 365 days
Arizona resident general hunting license $25.50 (current fee) or $32.25 (proposed new fee) Up to 365 days
Arizona Cardinals single game $15 to $235 Three hours
Golf (18 holes) $25 to $175 Four to five hours
Dinner at restaurant $20 to $50 Two hours
Movie $7.50 to $8.50 Two to three hours

 

2000-2005 Arizona Game and Fish Department Cost Saving Measures

In accordance with our vision of meeting or exceeding the expectations of our customers, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has instituted several cost saving measures the last five years. Below are some of these savings.

Electronic Communications: Enhancements to the department's Web site have facilitated the electronic distribution of several department newsletters, including the Fishing Report, Wildlife News, Urban Fishing News, Shooting Sports, and Endangered Species Update. Cost savings have come from reduced costs for layout and design, printing, and postage and mailing, resulting in a total annual savings of $256,710.88.

Electronic License Sales: By using the department Web site to allow customers to purchase licenses, stamps and tags the department in 2002 saved approximately $110,803 in saved staff hours, postage and refund checks.

Energy Savings: Based on recent replacement and monitoring data at various department facilities, new and more efficient equipment has realized a 7 to 10 percent cost savings in annual electrical usage. Completing upgrades at the department's state headquarters and remaining regional offices will result in a $12,000 to $15,000 annual savings.

Federal Monies: As a part of its normal business practices, the department works to obtain federal monies whenever possible to fund its operations. This is especially critical since the department receives no General Fund monies and cannot go back to the Legislature for additional funding to address revenue shortfalls. For example in 2002 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted the department $13,440,497.

Procurement: In order to streamline the procurement process, the department initiated the small purchase authorization (SPA) process several years ago. This process allows for the purchase of small dollar items without the need to generate a requisition or purchase order. The SPA and billing receipt are sent directly to the Accounts Payable section for payment, saving both time and the costs associated with generating a requisition/purchase order. This process has reduced the number of requisitions generated by approximately 70 percent along with associated costs. The cost to generate a requisition is $75. The cost to generate a SPA is $37.50. The annual cost savings by using the SPA process is approximately $206,000.

Since 2001, all invoices have been paid within the terms of the invoice to take advantage of discounts offered by the vendor. The discounts range from 1 to 5 percent, and in three years, the department has saved $50,219.66.

Telecommunications: In the last three years, the department has reduced the number of cell phones by 17.5 percent and the costs associated with these phones by 20 percent, resulting in approximately $12,200 in annual savings. The department has replaced its analog telecommunications circuitry with Primary Rate Interface (PRI) technology and instituted several other changes in its telecommunications resulting in $98,280.36 in savings.

Travel: All out-of-state travel requests are evaluated first by programmatic supervisors and then by branch chiefs before going to the director for approval. Each request is evaluated for time, cost and value to department mission, specific program, and funding source. In-state travel is also being reviewed, and any travel that is not mission critical is also being eliminated. Phone meetings are being held to reduce travel, and local employees are covering workshops, events and other activities to reduce the travel need for Phoenix-based employees. The department recognizes that fuel costs are rising and has established a plan to coordinate carpooling, biking and other cost saving measures to reduce gas consumption. Many out of state travel trips have been cancelled and the department has saved money by reducing helicopter rentals and reducing mileage on agency vehicles.

Training: As a part of its ongoing efforts to reduce training costs, the department regularly takes its training programs to regional department offices, which reduces in-state travel and time away from the job for employees. For example, in the fall of 2002 and spring 2003, the training office delivered computer training to regional personnel in Kingman and Yuma rather than bringing employees to Phoenix for the training, resulting in a cost savings of several thousand dollars.

 

 
 

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