Sedgwick County Zoo long-term funding agreement up for vote

Sedgwick County Zoo (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kansas – Sedgwick County Commissioners will vote Wednesday on whether to terminate the county’s current five-year funding agreement it has with the Sedgwick Co. Zoo.

The current contract is set to end in 2018.

Due to tight economic times facing the county, even in fiscal year 2016, for a majority of Sedgwick Co. commissioners, they say the vote has become necessary.

“I would love to provide certainty to the zoo, but we don’t have that certainty,” said Sedgwick Co. Commissioner for the 5th district, Jim Howell. “If we had big, ending balances, it would make this problem less of an issue.”

Commissioner Howell stresses that the long-term nature of the current agreement can bring uncertainty in future budgets.

“When the commission made the choice to provide a funding agreement, without a doubt, it was with the assumption that the revenues would be there to cover these increasing costs. Well, we’re not there,” Howell continued.

There are those commissioners, however, who say they believe the zoo deserves the county’s support.

“Every great asset that’s going to produce benefit typically requires a substantial capital investment, and it requires maintenance over time,” explained Sedgwick Co. Commission for the 1st district, Dave Unruh.

“It is such an outstanding asset in our community,” he said.

Commissioner Unruh also believes the lengthy contract is imperative for operations.

“A long-term funding agreement is absolutely essential for their ability to plan and for their ability to raise funds for other exhibits,” said Unruh.

Commissioner Howell stressed to KSN that no one is advocating to close the zoo. He said simply, that the termination vote on Wednesday, allows the commission to have the discussion about the zoo’s contract and the stipulations outlined in that contract.

“That allows us to understand our budgets and understand our pressures, and understand our priorities, so we can make the changes, if necessary,” he said.

For more information about the Sedgwick Co. Zoo, visit their website here.

To contact a Sedgwick Co. Commissioner, click here.

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