Commissioner Dean Browning is confused by the numbers. According to Cunningham, it will cost Lehigh County $200 thousand per year to maintain the elk and oversized bisonburgers grazing near the zoo. But if zookeepers stay, it will only cost them $80 thousand to maintain the herds. Why such a difference?
Another Browning concern is that in 2008, with a county grant of $350 thousand, the zoo still lost $164 thousand. This year, if the county gives the zoo $325 thousand, won't it still finish the year in the red?
A third problem is a $250 thousand line of credit, guaranteed personally by some board members. Is the county going to use taxpayer funds to pay off what really amount to personal obligations?
Fourth, Browning would like to know a little more about the county's own finances. How much will the county have to pay into the pension fund this year? Will the state continue dragging its feet on human services reimbursements?
Finally, the zoo may be performing functions and spending money that could be done more efficiently and inexpensively by the county.
Because of these questions, Browning is suggesting that the county release $100 thousand to the zoo now, which should enable it to meet its payroll until commissioners and county executive can reach a final decision.