Wednesday, October 5, 2011

KC Zoo to Ask Jackson County Voters for 1/8-Cent Sales Tax

Friends of the Zoo, including Royals legend Frank White, kicked off a campaign to pass 1/8-cent sales taxes in Jackson and Clay counties to fund major upgrades at the Kansas City Zoo. If the measure is approved by voters in November, the zoo will add a major penguin exhibit, along with creative new habitats for the giraffes, the big cats and many other popular zoo animals. Residents of each county that approves the sales tax will enjoy annual free days and other special benefits at the zoo.
Community leaders and zoo supporters gathered at the zoo in Swope Park last week to tout a Nov. 8 ballot measure in Jackson County and Clay County that calls for a new 1/8-cent sales tax for zoo improvements and operations.
Funds would be used to help expedite projects in the zoo’s master plan. A Penguin Exhibit would be completed in the next two years, followed by an Orangutan Canopy section, Predator Canyon for tigers and other big cats, an interactive Giraffe Tree Tops viewing area, an Elephant Oasis, a specialized Gorilla Forest, a modern Sea Lion Cove and a custom-designed Kids Wet Play Zone. The zoo would also expand its educational programs, using Zoomobiles to bring experiences to schools, libraries, and community centers in Jackson County and Clay County.
If passed, Jackson and Clay County residents would be eligible for half-price admission to the zoo at any time and would get in free on four designated days each year. They would also get discounts on Friends of the Zoo memberships. The zoo would also sponsor field trips, including transportation, for schoolchildren in designated grade levels, with instruction that meets Missouri Show-Me Standards.
The sales tax would raise an estimated $14 million annually, starting January 1, 2012. The tax amounts to one penny on every $8 in taxable purchases in Jackson County and Clay County. An estimated one-third of sales taxes would be paid by shoppers and tourists who do not live in either county.
An independent commission made up of members from Jackson and Clay counties would oversee budgeting and expenditures for the improvements.
“We can create a truly extraordinary, national caliber zoo that the area will be proud of for generations,” said Chuck Caisley, chairman of the One Zoo for All campaign committee.
The Kansas City Zoo in Swope Park is 102 years old. Attendance at the zoo has risen to more than 600,000 visitors per year since the independent private non-profit Friends of the Zoo took over operations in 2002, but zoo experts estimate attendance could grow to 1.12 million by 2022 when the 10-year zoo improvement plan is complete.
The expanded zoo would create up to 100 new full-time jobs, along with scores of seasonal jobs for teenagers and retirees. Many jobs would also develop through the construction projects over the 10-year period.

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