The Sedgwick County Commission is proposing a plan to bring more stability, and less politics, into annual funding talks with the zoo.
The commission has been in negotiations with the Sedgwick County Zoological Society over future funding and operating agreements for months. Commission Chairman Jim Howell says a new plan is meant to clear up much of the contention.
The county is proposing to set aside a portion of its property tax revenue—approximately 1.391 mills—just for the zoo. The current system has commissioners allocating funding for the zoo during the county’s budget talks each year. The zoo previously dedicated some of its property taxes for the zoo, but the funding model was abandoned in 2001.
“The zoo has given up $10 million worth of funding that they would have had, had they just stayed under the previous mill levy funding scheme," Howell says. "So this really has not been good for the zoo over the last 16 years.”
He adds that the plan would help eliminate recent debates over both zoo funding levels and the county’s level of representation on the zoo board.
Mark DeVries, president of the Zoological Society, says they’ve received a brief outline of the plan and are currently analyzing how the change would affect future funding.
He says the two groups will discuss the plan over the coming weeks. It would need to be approved by both in order to go forward.
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