The 5 percent across the board cut mandated by the recently passed Illinois budget won’t have a major effect on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

On the surface, that sounds like good news. Digging a little deeper, it is a reflection of how IDNR has been depleted over the years. Essentially, the loss of personnel means the department has already absorbed the 5 percent decrease.

The IDNR had 1,265 employees in 2015. Earlier this summer, the number was 1,003.

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Wayne Rosenthal

Rosenthal

“The majority of our general revenue fund is spent for salaries, because we get a lot of license money,” said IDNR director Wayne Rosenthal. “We can’t add anything, but we can continue to do the things we have been doing the last several years. I’d not ideal, but it is better than other places.”

With many more employees nearing retiring age, Rosenthal said staffing is a concern.

“We’re continuing to look at that,” he said. “That’s one of the things I identified, if we don’t bring in new folks, eventually that affects how we can operate in the future. Sometime we need to fill in the lower level jobs. We have to bring in people to fill the progression.

“We have a lot of people who are eligible to retire. They stuck around because this is their passion. It’s a challenge that we recognize.”

In terms of Conservation Police Officers, Rosenthal said there are currently between 115-120 on active duty.

“We are continuing to look at a class, to try to get one in 2018, and for 2019 we will need them for sure,” he said. “In 1999 we took in a large class and a large portion of them are eligible to retire. Planning forward, in order to maintain our force, we need to look at a class.”

Despite ongoing financial issues, the passage of the budget was a relief for IDNR.

“One of the things we’ve been doing the last several years is a lot of contingency planning,” Rosenthal said. “Having a budging where we can sit down and say we can or can’t do something makes it easier for everyone involved.”

The presence of a budget means creditors can be paid in a timely matter. In some areas of the state, creditors cut off fuel supplies because the state was in arrears. Two other state parks were closed briefly before private citizens stepped up and paid overdue bills.

“I think we’re going to continue to process the bills, Rosenthal said. “They will still be in line with everything else. I don’t expect things to get paid right away, it’s a matter of us processing the vouchers. I don’t know how long that is going to take, but they can expect to get their payments.”

During the recent financial crisis, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency was placed under the IDNR’s umbrella. Since the IHPA had its own funding and staff, the addition will not negatively impact the IDNR’s budget.

And, the consolidation will save administrative costs.

“In many cases, the money was coming from our agency anyway,” Rosenthal said. “The people at the sites, they won’t see much difference. It’s just a matter of who is managing them at a higher level.

“They were with us 40 years ago and got split off. A lot of their job descriptions are the same job descriptions we have. It’s the same type of people doing the same things.”

He also stated the Rend Lake Resort could re-open later this fall or early this winter. The resort closed last winter due to mold issues. Concessionaire bids were opened earlier this week. Rosenthal said it would take about three weeks to analyze the bids and then begin the interview process.

“Our intent is to get it open as soon as possible because it is a big economic driver for the area,” he said.

les.winkeler@thesouthern.com

618-351-5088

On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​

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Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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