Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dean Browning Wants to Study LV Zoo Finances: Bison Angry

Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham has proposed saving the nearly bankrupt Lehigh Valley Zoo. Closing it will cost the county about $1.8 million over five years, and that's about the same amount of money it would take to keep it open. So why not just keep it open, asks the exec.

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.


Anonymous said...

Work on it Dean - and I'll have mine rare.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

It does sound illogical that to keep a facility such as this open will cost as much as it would to close it. Sounds like doublespeak. What is wrong with Mr. Browning checking the figures for himself?

How much of an asset is it to the community to have such a 'zoo'? I would think the progressives in the community would be all for letting the beasties roam free rather than be on display as in a 19th century menagerie.

How do we make decisions on such matters? Is it a dollars and cents question? Or is it an attraction that the community cherishes and is willing to contribute private funds to keep afloat?