Zoo Endangered as State Budget Shrinks

Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport is the only zoo in the state and it’s future is in jeopardy. State budget problems have the zoo director afraid the Beardsley could be as endangered as the animals it rescues.

The state and city both give the zoo cash and budget shortfalls could mean less money for the peacocks, tigers and bears, oh my!

The state gives the zoo $380,000 and Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s budget proposal eliminates that incrementally over two years, according to World Zoo Today.

The cash from Bridgeport is also in jeopardy because money the state gives the city from the two casinos is iffy, the Hartford Advocate reports.

“With budgets in crisis at the state and local levels, our funding is in jeopardy. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo relies on both the State of Connecticut and the City of Bridgeport for nearly one third of our funding,” zoo officials wrote on the Web site. “If either one cuts our budget, our ability to keep the doors open will be in danger.”

Mayor Bill Finch told the Advocate that those cutbacks necessitate either cutting back or raising taxes in a community that’s already seen too many foreclosures.

"I've had 5,000 sub-prime loans made in a predatory fashion in my city," Finch told the newspaper. "I'm going to have 2,000 people lose their homes. So now what do I do? Raise property taxes so we can have another 500 people lose their homes?"

The rest of the zoo’s cash comes from donations, admission and fees charged for programs, according to Word Zoo Today. And the the zoo cannot charge more because it would become unaffordable for families, Gregg Dancho told the Hartford Advocate .

The target demographic he’s talking about is families. The admission is set accordingly: $11 for adults and $9 for children between 3 and 11.

Democratic leaders have added money for the zoo into the budget, upping the allocation to $450,000, the Advocate reports.

Rep. Auden C. Grogins, D-Bridgeport, told the Advocate the zoo deserves earmarked funding not only for the reason Dancho cites, but also because of the unique role it plays in the state.

"[The zoo] is an integral part of tourism in the state of Connecticut, it's critically important to the state," she said. "I think [its funding] should be earmarked."

Adam Liegeot, a spokesman for Rell, told the Advocate the zoo can still get the funding it needs --- by competing for it.

"Under the governor's proposal, the zoo will still be eligible for state funding through a competitive grant process," Liegeot told the newspaper. "In the past the zoo simply received a government earmark every year. Governor Rell considers the zoo to be an asset to the state, but she wants to eliminate earmarks across the board in favor of having organizations like the zoo compete for their funds. This is a more responsible way to distribute taxpayer dollars."

As the budget battle goes on, zoo officials are appealing to the public for help, asking people to contact the governor, mayor or make donations.

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