Report: Cincinnati zoo not making money

CINCINNATI - A new consultant's report isn't good news for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

The report handed to a county tax levy review committee on Wednesday says revenues aren't keeping up with expenses. Although attendance is up, the report said the situation could result with the zoo going into the red as early as 2015.

But zoo executive director Thane Maynard said the facility is thriving and disagreed with the assessment that the zoo could face budget woes.

"We are thriving and have been six years well in the black," Maynard said. "We certainly have a sustainable model, and frankly are a role model to other zoos of how to get it done."

The report said rising attendance led to about a $4 million increase in annual operating revenues between 2007 and 2011. But during the same period, annual operating expenses increased by $5.1 million, much of it due to increases in wages and benefits and the hiring of 14 more full-time employees.

The zoo wants the renewal of its property tax levy to be put on the November ballot. The levy brought in about $6.5 million this year.

The Cincinnati Enquirer says the 112-page report was developed for the Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Committee, which advises county commissioners on whether a levy should appear on the ballot, how much revenue it should generate and its duration.

Zoo attendance has increased from 950,000 in 2007 to 1.4 million last year. The report said that if attendance drops to 1.2 million, the zoo would begin operating in the red by 2015. But even if it stays steady at 1.4 million, revenue is not expected to keep up with expenses.
 

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