Zoo reports a small surplus

Reductions in costs, jobs leave cushion of $200,000

August 08, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

After years of financial woes, the Maryland Zoo reported finishing with "some money in the bank" this fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Zoo officials say they finished with a $200,000 surplus by cutting costs, eliminating several jobs and revising contracts.

The zoo also received help from the Abell Foundation, which provided a $1.2 million bank credit in April, allowing the zoo to get through May and June without the significant layoffs some had feared.

It was the first time the zoo did not run a deficit since 2004, when officials reduced the animal inventory and work force by about 10 percent. The zoo has struggled in recent years with financial problems as attendance has declined, private donations have stagnated and maintenance and operating needs have soared beyond the $12.5 million budget.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions incorrectly described the assistance the Abell Foundation offered the Maryland Zoo. The foundation co-signed a bridge loan for the zoo in April, but the zoo did not have to take advantage of it.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Attendance this year remained at about 349,000, nearly the same total as last year.

Don Hutchinson, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Zoo, said that despite the zoo not finishing in the red, money and donations remain an issue."One of the major messages we have to give people is ... we literally from payout to payout don't have any money in the bank or a reserve fund at all or an endowment fund."

Hutchinson added that the zoo is not offering free admission for the opening weekend helped raise money, although attendance dipped from 37,000 to about 12,000. Still, officials report a $60,000 increase in sales.

During the fiscal year, the zoo acquired two new elephants - Tuffy and Felix - who gave birth to Samson, the first elephant born in the zoo's 132-year history. A new giraffe feeding station was built and opened in May, and renovations to the African aviary were completed.

The zoo faces major infrastructure problems and could lose the national accreditation it has held since 1980 from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums if costly repairs are not completed by next month. Zoo officials say they have made progress but will not accomplish all the deferred maintenance work required, estimated to cost about $30 million.

More than 1,500 animals are in the zoo's natural habitat exhibits

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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