Aug. 2 Election: Detroit Zoo Seeking to Extend Millage

ScottWrightadTOPAug. 2 Election: Detroit Zoo baby modern natural 03Seeking to Extend Millage

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 25, 2016)

Royal Oak, MI –  Taxpayers will likely be asked to approve an extension of the tri county millage to continue funding the Detroit Zoo.

The current .1 mill tax expires in 2018, but the process to put it on the ballot has begun, with Zoo representatives presenting information to the Oakland County General Governance Committee.  The committee voted to send it to the full commission.

The millage accounts for about 30% of the budget, and Oakland County taxpayers fund about 14% of the total budget.  The total raised is about $11 million annually.

dinos02sidelogo3When asked why they are putting the measure on the ballot on Aug. 2 of  this year, Detroit Zoological Society Chairperson Lloyd Semple said that putting it on sooner would give them the time needed to adjust their budget should the measure fail.  He added that

“We want to go in August because we don’t want to compete with the Presidential stuff.”

Commissioners on the General Governance Committee asked questions about how the money is spent and what benefits there have been to residents since passing the original millage in 2008.

“When we had the first millage passed we made some concessions…we’re proud of them,” Simple said.  The zoo has special days for Veterans and senior citizens, as well as they have reduced the cost of educational programs by 50%.twsted_tavern_AD_more text

The millage costs the average household about $10 per year.  The Zoo has offset that for families by giving $10 of the cost of memberships for anyone who lives in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb.

According to the Detroit News, “The zoo brings in $7.8 million a year in admissions, parking and rentals and $4.1 million in membership dues. It also gets $6.5 million in contributions, annual gifts and donated services and materials..”

Commissioner Dave Woodward of Royal Oak, home of the Detroit Zoo, said he supports the millage but is disappointed that the DIA funding is twice as much as the zoo funding.  “The economic contribution to the region is the most substantial, the most visitors to the region. To be able to bring this to the public is important.”

Semple said that the funding goes for general operations of the zoo, including electricity, heat, and maintenance.  “The zoo was built in the late ‘20s.  There is an ongoing need for repair,” he m1_two tonesaid.  “This week we are doing something unglorious, we are doing blacktop improvements.  But this is important so people can walk around the zoo without tripping.”

He said that when special exhibits are built, the funding comes from private donors.

The General Governance Committee passed the ballot language, with only Commissioner  Robert Gosslin opposing putting it on the ballot.

Commissioner Marcia Gershenson requested that the zoo send officials to report to the Commission more frequently.  “We don’t want to just hear from you when it’s a millage request, we want more frequent updates,” she said.


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