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On the Way to November Ballot, Fresno Chaffee Zoo Hits Funding Hurdle

Joe Moore
Valley Public Radio

In 2004, an initiative called Measure Z saved Fresno's Chaffee Zoo.  The voter-­approved measure allowed for an increase in county sales tax by one tenth of one percent.  Those 10 cents from every $100 spent in Fresno County prevented the zoo from raising its entry fees, while allowing it to make crucial repairs and add new exhibits, like Sea Lion Cove and African Adventure.

In November, Measure Z will be up for renewal­­--if it can get onto the ballot.  Earlier this week, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted to postpone the Measure Z ballot decision until its next meeting.  The Supervisors were concerned about who will pay for the addition to the ballot, and Supervisor Judy Case McNairy asked zoo executives whether they still need Measure Z to survive. 

Case McNairy: You guys have done a really great job and you really don't need this money right now. I mean, I applaud you for coming and asking, and if you can convince the taxpayers to give up $100 million for the next 10 years, God bless you.

Scott Barton, executive director of the zoo, warns that cutting Measure Z funds will make the zoo unaffordable to many Central Valley residents.

Barton: We could be self-sustaining. We'd have to raise our prices, we wouldn't be able to do some of the programs that are great for the community, but it also reduces the impact that we can have to our local economy, both in the jobs I mentioned, like construction jobs, but also in the tourism that we are just now starting to see at the zoo.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors will discuss Measure Z at its next meeting on June 17th.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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