Little Rock Zoo officials and supporters met tonight to hear the product of a consultant’s work on a strategic plan for the facilty. You may recall that a $12 million expenditure for the zoo is included in the recently announced priority list for a proposed Little Rock sales tax increase.
The takeaway from tonight’s presentation, according to Zoo spokesman Susan Altrui:
* Strong community support exists for the Zoo
* The Zoo’s budget has grown stronger in previous years but is still not where it needs to be
* The Zoo needs $1.9 million added to its budget for operation
* City funds invested in the Zoo could be leveraged to increase more private sector support.
Here’s the full strategic outline. Please read and report.
This is always a tough issue. The zoo is better than it deserves to be given haphazard city support. Some question, though, whether the city is big enough and prosperous enough to afford the expenditure. Some argue more elementally with zoo missions. But, for better or worse, the LR Zoo remains an egalitarian and popular magnet for more visitors than any other attraction in Arkansas. It works on the mission of protecting species. It’s like a lot of things in Little Rock, many of which are far more basic. Great cities have good streets, good public services, good cultural amenities like zoos and museums. These things cost money. Will the taxpayers pay? And will they pay when city leadership has fallen so short in so many ways historically? I guess we’ll find out in September.