At least one Oklahoma City councilman thinks it's time to study whether sales tax money currently routed to the zoo should instead go to public safety or street improvements.
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid brought up the zoo's funding at a council meeting in June during a discussion of what to do with a projected surplus of $1.5 million in the new fiscal year, which began Sunday. The council, which still has not made a decision, debated using the money to hire new police officers, fix more streets or add Sunday bus service, among other options.
Shadid noted the city was trying to decide what core service should get the surplus, but that the eighth-cent sales tax dedicated to the zoo for the last two-plus decades was rendered untouchable, like all dedicated funding sources, without a change to city code. The sales tax is expected to bring the zoo about $12.4 million this year.
“In my mind over the next year, it's time to look at the one-eighth sales tax (for) the zoo,” Shadid said. “Then we could debate how much this year of excess funds we want to give to the zoo instead of ... our core business, which is public safety.”
Shadid did not respond to multiple requests last week to elaborate on his comments.
Public-private funding mix
More than half of the Oklahoma City Zoo's operating budget comes from city tax revenue. That's a larger portion than some zoos in the region and less than others.
Most of the rest of the budget comes from proceeds from users, which is primarily money from tickets, concessions, parking and souvenirs, along with money from events held at the zoo.
The nonprofit Oklahoma Zoological Society helps secure private funding, which supplements the zoo's budget. The society, also known as Zoo Friends, contributes its membership fees to the zoo each year and assists with raising money for capital projects and other efforts.