The N.C. Zoo Thinks They Could Improve Zoo Through Private Funding

6:12 PM, Oct 7, 2011   |    comments
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Asheboro, NC -- The North Carolina State Zoo is looking into its future, which could mean a different relationship with the state when it comes to funding.

Zoo officials might ask out of its normal taxpayer funding arrangement. 

As it stands now most of the Zoo's funding comes from the state. However, officials believe that if more of their money came from the private sector, they would be able to improve the zoo at a faster rate.

"It seems to be a real trend," said Mary Joan Pugh about the way zoos across the country are changing the way they are funded.

"There's something like 20 zoos have gone that way in the last few years," said Pugh, the Deputy Director of the N.C. Zoo.

She said those zoos have turned into both public and privately funded organizations. In the N.C. Zoo's case, Pugh said they would be government owned and privately funded.

"We're saying, 'Hmm, if that works for them, maybe it will work for the zoo.'"

Pugh said it costs $17 million to run the zoo each year, with more than $10 million coming from the state. Pugh said that's down about a million and a half from last year. Less money can hurt projects like the Polar Bear Exhibit expansion.

"Money is given by the state," said Pugh. "That money, you don't know you have the money until get it. And then you have to start doing the planning. And that makes the project go longer."

Pugh said they're working with a Philadelphia based consulting firm on whether they should change the way they're funded. The goal is to cap how much money the zoo gets from the state and fund the rest themselves.

"If we knew how much money we were getting from the state, then it would probably increase, at least that's been the experience of other zoos, increase the private donations," said Pugh.

Pugh said they're not sure how the potential changes could affect the zoo. There's always a possibility ticket prices could go up slightly.

"I think you should always be looking at ways to improve," she said. "I think this is sort of the wave of the future, and that we need to take a good look at it."

We looked around the country to see where other zoos get their money.

The San Diego Zoo, the nation's largest, is privately funded through admissions, donations and memberships. They do receive some government grants.

The St. Louis Zoo gets a third of its funding from property taxes. The rest comes from sales, parking fees, private donations, foundations and memberships.

The zoo at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, is 100 percent privately funded , with most of the money coming through memberships and charitable giving.

WFMY News 2

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