Zoo Faces Cut To Infrastructure Repair Budget

By: Lily Wu - Email
By: Lily Wu - Email

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Sedgwick County Zoo is facing a 5% budget cut that eliminates money into contractual services such as infrastructure repairs.

"There's not much more that we can do to maintain the professional standards out here of a world class zoo," said Mark Reed, executive director for the zoo.

Reed said last year's budget cut meant increasing admission fees to nearly $14 for adults. Research he has seen showed that those fees are near the maximum for the community.

"We cannot raise. If we raise prices more, we're going to be losing people coming into the zoo and that's going to cause a loss," said Reed.

Although prices went up, it did not stop visitors from coming to the zoo. Some visitors said they would be willing to pay more.

"I'd pay 30 bucks because I could be here the whole day. I could come back around here multiple times," said James Dauria, visitor.

The proposed budget is showing zero dollars going into contractual services. That line item provides money for infrastructure repairs or updates.

Since 1996, the average cost for repairs has been $700,000. It has been paid by both the county and the Zoological Society. Last year, the county provided $329,781 for contractual services.

"We know we cannot let the infrastructure fall apart. You cannot have aging air conditioning systems and roofs and electrical systems and anything that's unsafe for the animals or the public," said Reed.

Reed said the chimpanzee and orangutan exhibit needs nearly $200,000 in repairs for the 33-year-old building. The money will help replace the roof, skylights, and the HVAC unit that currently does not provide air conditioning to the animals.

"It's a 40-year-old infrastructure. Orangutans, gorillas are a little hard on things," said Scott Oaks, chairman of the Zoological Society. "That's our main concern, to keep the quality by trying to make it affordable. That puts it in jeopardy with these cuts frankly."

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sedgwick County residents and county department leaders are speaking against proposed cuts to services.

More than a dozen residents advocated for various organizations in the community, including the county extension agency, zoo, and senior centers, spoke out during a public hearing in downtown Wichita Thursday.

Bill Buchanan, county manager, proposed the 2013 budget last month. The recommended budget represents a decrease from the 2012 revised budget of 1.3 percent for all operating funds.

The county extension agency faces a $176,867 cut, or 18.3 percent decrease in the budget.

The zoo faces a $255,889 cut, or 5 percent decrease in the budget.

The senior centers faces a $66,300 cut.

The county faces a $9.3 million budget shortfall. Buchanan's budget proposes laying off 79 employees, including cuts to the extension agency, the senior centers and closing the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch.

The next public hearing will take place at 9 a.m. on Aug. 14. There is also an online public hearing.

The budget will be adopted Aug. 15.


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