In the short term, the mayor has proposed a $200,000 budget cut for the zoo. The mayor's office says it may mean fee increases for visitors, but the Parks and Recreation Department is not ready to say how they will respond to the reduction.
In the long term, the mayor wants to transfer management of the zoo to the Potter Park Zoological Society to save money. The society says they'd be happy to consider the idea, but they've never seen a proposal.
"What the mayor and his budget director are doing, I don't have a clue," says Carol Webster, the executive director of the Potter Park Zoological Society.
The zoo costs $2.3 million to run. It brings in only $700,000 in revenues. If privatized, city budget director David Weiner says the city would still finance the zoo in some way, but would gradually cut costs.
Webster calls this idea unplanned and disorganized. She accuses the city of jumping on the idea to hedge a budget crisis. She says the society could never do what the city is proposing in time to help.
Weiner says the mayor never intended for this part of his proposal to address the city's current budget crisis. He and Lansing's Parks and Recreation director Murdock Jemerson say they hope to explore this idea this year, and make savings a part of future budgets.