Let’s dig a little deeper into the figures to support a $32,000,000.00 Glen Oak Zoo expansion. Let’s play with some figures: Current ticket prices are $4.75 for adults and $2.50 for children 3 years and up. Let’s say that after the zoo is expanded, adult prices go to $7.00 and children go to $3.50 and that attendance goes from 100,000 to 170,000. (These are figures given by Polly Barton in the 9/04 issue of the Peoria Woman – she should have a pretty good handle on it as she is co-chair of the Zoological Financial Campaign.) Figuring the 70,000 new visitors are halved 35,000 adults and 35,000 children, revenues would increase from $371,000.00 (2003) to approximately $895.000 the first year of the new expanded zoo. “The zoo has been traditionally heavily subsidized by the park and is expected to run a deficit of $400,000.00 this year.” (JS 4/24/04) If, the JS editorial in August of this year is correct, they support Polly Barton’s 100,000 current attendance figures. Then the JS 4/24/04 article stating “about 157,500 people visited the zoo last year,” is incorrect.
Even if you can only balance your checkbook, you can see something isn’t adding up here. If attendance is currently 100,000, or 157,000, we don’t know many fell under the scholarship or pay nothing category. (Think RiverPlex.) Or how many were under 3 years old? So how can anyone project future revenues? If admission is priced to high, you eliminate a lot of kids and locals, plus people who can see an even better zoo in Chicago or Saint Louis.
Let’s look at this from another perspective. I believe the new $32,000,000.00 figure includes the conversion of the pavilion, current Park Headquarters into a new children’s museum called the PlayHouse. Also, I believe it includes $2,000,000.00 for a maintenance fund to keep these museums operating (@6% interest. That adds up to only $120,000.00 and the old zoo is losing around $400,000.00 a year!!
Many of us believe the Peoria Park District under “Queen” Noble, so called by the “Journal Star” in some issue I can find if I need to, is going to become the most bloated bureaucracy in any community our size in the country.
Will it be a great zoo? You bet for that kind of money!! But once it’s built, and it is going to be, and once the exotic animals are brought in, there is no holding down yearly costs if the economy goes “south”. (Think Caterpillar).
Once wealthy women, weary of bridge, tennis & golf, turn to bringing “us people” what’s best for us, there is no end of delights that can be conjured up. Aren’t most of you glad you only have to pay more taxes?
Also, don’t forget that a new headquarters building will be needed. The Knoxville building bought from IDOT for $1 has only 22,000 sq. ft. and “a study indicated that the administration needed 30,000 sq. ft.”
What about the 1998 & current traffic problems in Glen Oak?? Remember the 1998 letter circulated by Bonnie Noble about “major traffic congestion and a serious accident in Glen Oak Park”. And where does the city figure in for infrastructure and traffic control and at what projected cost?
And what about more intrusion of a tax supported body on the private sector? “Ultimately this will be more than a zoo. Families will be able to eat there, to have banquets, wedding receptions and other after hour events”.
I leave you with these comforting facts:
The Park District collected $11,474,366.00 in Peoria property tax alone last year not including grants of taxpayer dollars from the state.
Long term debt was at $15,530.00, actually $22,275.437.00 at maturity.
The Park District spent $33,605,722.in 2003.
The Park District has not been able to fund principal & interest from taxes & revenues for the RiverPlex borrowing. They must sell new bonds each year to make the payments to the bond holders.
We are years behind East Peoria, Morton and Bloomington-Normal on softball fields so look for more spending. 99% of the kids and parents don’t know where the touted new skateboard park is & couldn't get there anyway unless they can drive. Do you know where it is? It’ located at Becker Park behind the softball backstop and next to the high brush. They do not have a "beginners" slope raising the possibility of more injuries. If the kids are old enough to drive, they will go to Pekin Park District Skateboard site which is far superior. (And can be seen by the public)
Sorry this is so long and too late. Talk to you soon!!