Milwaukee County Zoo budget deficit projection causes concern

The Milwaukee County Zoo was busy Sunday, July 24. However, zoo officials aren't seeing enough days like it.

Attendance is down, and the zoo's projected budget deficit is a real concern.

"Revenue projections through the end of the year show a potential deficit of $900,904," said Amos Morris, the zoo's executive director.

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During Milwaukee County's Finance Committee meeting, Morris said the zoo is down more than 50,000 visitors. The largest affected revenue is group sales.

"We believe that is due to the pandemic, and people’s desires to rent the facility at lower numbers," Morris said.

Milwaukee County Zoo

COVID-19 is playing a big role in the nearly $1 million projected deficit, Morris said. To save money, he said the zoo is keeping some positions vacant and saving on maintenance. Officials are also brining back Milwaukee a la Carte at the zoo after a two-year hiatus, and Boo at the Zoo will return to an in-person event format.

"We are putting all our efforts to get together to try to stimulate group sales," Morris said.

Long-time zoo lovers are sad to hear of the pandemic's lingering impact. They hope it will turn around.

Milwaukee County Zoo

"We come like every week," said Desiree Fischer. "I would want my kids and my grandkids to be able to come here, so this is something if I had extra money I would donate to."

"Growing up it was always something special that I came to," Mike Lampshire of Green Bay said. "To hear it’s having a hard time is difficult for me to understand."

Other visitors, though, aren't surprised based on the prices of food and entry. 

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"The meals are just as much as the prices to get in for kids," said Clenteria Davis of Milwaukee.

Zoo officials said weather plays a big role in attendance, and they hope the forecast doesn't get too wild.

FOX6 News asked if the projected deficit means the zoo could potentially close. Morris said there is "no threat" of the zoo closing.