Not satisfied with a near impossible fundraising mandate, Hogle Zoo officials are now begging the Salt Lake County Council for mercy.
Last month the council voted to put a $65 million bond on the ballot in November to fund new exhibits at Hogle Zoo, but members included a major hurdle zoo officials must meet before seeing a penny of those funds: The zoo must raise $20 million in matching funds in little time.
Being required to raise $20 million in two years is just not fair, said Maura Carabello, who is running the zoo's campaign. Plus, zoo officials believe the $20 million is the largest private-only match required by any local government agency in recent history.
"We're asking the council to work with us a little bit," Carabello said. "We want to do our fair share, and we respect what the council has said to us. We're just hoping that they can work with us a little bit more on the terms."
The Democrats on the council are all for it. Convincing the Republicans to change their position is a different story. The conditional bond proposal was approved on a party-line vote, with the Republicans on the prevailing side.
"We already have our position that we voted on a couple weeks ago," council chairman Michael Jensen said. "I think we'll be open to listen, but I'm not sure if anybody is going to change their position."
Democrat Randy Horiuchi would like to ease things up a bit.
The zoo should still be required to come up with $20 million but be allowed to raise the funds in installments, he said. Tuesday the council will discuss a proposal to require the zoo to come up with $10 million in private funds in order to receive $35 million in public money. Then zoo officials would have to raise another $10 million in matching funds before receiving the remaining $30 million from the public-approved property tax increase.
"It's a pretty reasonable proposal," Horiuchi said. "It's more in line with what we've done with other groups. We don't want to make it so hard that it's impossible to make their project go."
Carabello said the new proposal is "the most fair."
"We're committed to doing our part," Carabello said. "It's just the structure of it."
The zoo had planned on raising $20 million all along but said it would take 10 years to reach its goal. The private-capital campaign has already raked in $7.3 million since November 2006.
Zoo officials want to build out the zoo's master plan, with a new arctic exhibit and a parking structure atop the priority list.If voters approve the zoo bond, property taxes would jump $10 a year for the next 15 years on a home valued at $235,000.