Boston Globe writer, Matt Viser, wrote that state funding for Zoo New England would be cut by $4m from $6.5 to $2.5. That's a large funding decrease and one not likely to be popular with voters if the comments on the Globe article are any indication.
The answer to the Zoo’s funding dilemma is either to ask the legislature to restore the funding, go back to the drawing board with negotiations as to the cuts, or close down the zoo. What do you think should happen? I know my preference is for Zoo New England to remain open, and as a result I will be contacting my state representatives and State Senators to let them know I think they should fund the Zoo.
If Zoo New England is going to keep its funding with the State Legislature, the Zoo and its supporters will have to make a public argument to the Massachusetts State Legislature to remain open; I think the institution has to explain its economic impact on the Boston area.
Other Zoos have gone through the same type of funding crises and demonstrated the value a Zoo can provide to a region economically, by providing politicians with economic reasons to fund the Zoo because the funding was cut for economic reasons, the Zoo has a greater chance of continuing to get support from the legislature.
Here are a few examples of Zoos demonstrating the economic impact their existence has on a region:
Zoo has significant economic impact
The Economic Contribution of Lowry Park Zoo to the Hillsborough County Economy
The economic impact of pandas and the Memphis Zoo
In addition, I found the recent news that the Bronx Zoo in New York recently secured city funding by making an economic case particularly interesting as I thought both the economic case made sense, and any time New York is mentioned here in Boston, Bostonians’ competitive spirit is raised. One of the rivalries I've enjoyed since moving here to Boston is the New York Yankee - Boston Red Sox competition, that New York rivalry might be another argument to draw public support for Zoo New England should raise a smile or two at the very least, "if New York can save its zoos, why can't Boston!"
Not compelling enough, how about the suggestion that the cut in funding may result in zoo animals being euthanized? Reading the Globe headline and the details of the article, we learn that zoo officials have suggested that if the zoo were to close at least 20% of the animals might have to be destroyed because homes might not be found for the animals.
Dramatic? Yes but probably the sort of news that will jolt many Commonwealth citizens into calling their state representatives and senators. Personally, I’m not sure if this is sensationalism on the part of Zoo officials to shock people into responding. So I'm more persuaded by argument that the loss of such a cultural and scientific institution would have a bad effect on the cultural education of the State's children, and after reading several of the Zoo impact reports above such a cut in funding might have an even worse economic impact on the state than continuing the funding.
Looking at some of the numbers for Zoo New England and the Zoos in New York*, I think we get a pretty good ROI here in Boston. $285 million in operations expenditure for New York, compared to about $11.3 million for Zoo New England, $6.5 million of the funding for Zoo New England is from the state. 4 million visitors attend New York Zoos, while about 500,000 visitors attend the Boston Zoos. I think we need an economist to look over the numbers, but my back of the envelope arithmetic seems to indicate Boston gets a really good ROI for its dollars spent compared to New York if we compare the expenditure to visitors ratio for both cities.
More details about the financial background to Zoo New England, or the Commonwealth Zoological Corporation.
list of IRS Form 990 Tax Returns for Exempt Organizations for Commonwealth Zoological Corporation for 1998 to 2005
Commonwealth Zoological Corporation financials for 2007