Minnesota Zoo faces possibility of closing exhibits without cash infusion

The Minnesota Zoo made some difficult cuts last year, including layoffs.

Now, zoo officials are hoping lawmakers will help them make it through this year, before they have to take even more drastic measures, like closing exhibits.

The zoo is looking at a $1.5 million shortfall for the remainder of the year. Reasons for that include a rainy spring, higher maintenance costs, and lower than expected summer attendance.

Zoo spokesperson Beth Burns says they're asking lawmakers to make up the difference, and the money is already in a bill being considered by both sides of the aisle. Gov. Mark Dayton says he supports it, but he wonders aloud of zoo officials could've done a better job budgeting.

The Minnesota Zoo is in the Apple Valley districts represented by Anna Wills (R-Apple Valley). Wills says she believes the zoo will get some money from the state, but she isn't sure how much.

The zoo works with a $25 million operating budget each year and is technically a state agency. It gets nearly 25 percent of its budget from public funds, but since the beginning of the recession, it's been receiving less and less each year form the state.

With the Department of Human Services making layoffs just this week, it's unclear whether the zoo will get the cash infusion it's looking for.

Parents like Samantha Wessinger, who took her kids for one of their regular trips to the zoo on a recent afternoon, hope further cuts won't be necessary.

"Seems to me they've got enough revenue coming in with the visitors that they should be able to make a go of it," she says. "[My kids] can just run around and get some of their energy out in the cold winter days when you can't go outside."

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