A tight budget at Sedgwick County means you'll fork over more to visit the new baby orangutan at the zoo.
You'll still be able to get into Exploration Place and the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum without paying more, but your kids or grandkids might not learn about agriculture, horticulture or home economics at the Sedgwick County Extension Center.
Just as the Sheriff's Office, public works and the health department will have to find ways to operate with less money, so will outside organizations that get some of their money from the county.
The zoo, Exploration Place, the Kansas African American Museum, the historical museum and the Sedgwick County Fair all would take 6.6 percent cuts as part of the budget County Manager William Buchanan gave commissioners last week.
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The extension center is looking at a cut of almost 15 percent, which will affect the number of youths who can be served by 4-H agents.
"We are hoping that the economy can recover," said Mark Reed, executive director at the zoo.
Commissioners know groups in the community aren't happy about cuts — such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, which wouldn't receive any funding from the county under Buchanan's budget, and Wichita Festivals, which wouldn't get $25,000 for the Wichita River Festival.
Buchanan has stressed in his budget message that the county must "bend the curve" to reduce a deficit that was projected to be $16 million next year.
Eliminating zoo jobs
At the zoo, Reed will eliminate five positions paid by the county because of the budget cuts.
Buchanan has recommended giving the zoo $360,468 less next year than this year.
County funding makes up about 47 percent of the zoo's operating budget, Reed said. A private-public partnership, the zoo also gets money from the Sedgwick County Zoological Society.
Of the five county-paid positions Reed will eliminate, two are zookeepers, two are maintenance positions and one is a groundskeeper. Reed also is cutting one development position paid by the society.
One position to be cut is not currently filled, and one position was filled by someone who has opted to take an early retirement offer from the county.
"Three employees will be getting that horrible letter," Reed said.
The zoo also will raise prices.
"We know that we're going to have to tinker with our admissions and membership prices and look hard at things that we charge at the zoo," Reed said.
"We make our money from admissions, membership sales, hot dogs, rubber snakes, boat rides, grants, donations, corporation gifts, so forth."
Regular admission now is $12 for adults and $7.50 for children ages 3 to 11 and senior citizens 62 and older. Children under 2 are free. Admission likely won't go up much but enough to cover some of the difference in funding, Reed said.
"We will keep it minimal," Reed said of any increase in admission and memberships. "We don't want to outprice ourselves."
The zoo gets about 550,000 visitors a year and is the No. 1 attraction in Sedgwick County and one of the top in Kansas.
Weathering the cuts
Exploration Place gets about 55 percent of its budget from the county.
The science and discovery center would get $157,910 less next year under the county's plan.
Christina Bluml, director of marketing for the center, said Exploration Place has made some operational changes that have resulted in more efficiency.
"We have been looking at what we could do to reduce costs," Bluml said.
The center also "had a really good year with our earned revenue," she said.
Exploration Place was the county and state's second most popular attraction last year, Bluml said.
The center won't have to lay anyone off or raise prices, she said.
The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum also doesn't plan to raise admission prices, said executive director Eric Cale.
The museum, which receives about 20 percent of its budget from the county, would get $6,355 less next year.
"We're grateful for the county's support," Cale said. "We don't expect any outward changes because of this."
No one from the Kansas African American Museum — which would get the same 6.6 percent reduction as the zoo, Exploration Place and the historical museum — was available for comment. The cut would mean $12,173 less for the African American Museum.
Bev Dunning, director of the extension center, is bracing to serve fewer youths because of the cuts.
The extension center faces a nearly 15 percent reduction, or about $161,000.
Dunning has frozen two positions: one of three 4-H agents and a 4-H program assistant.
She expects to have to lay off two support staffers if the recommended cut is approved.
Dunning has asked extension center supporters to come to a public hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday and urge commissioners to reduce the cut.
The center works with about 12,000 youth as part of the 4-H program "and that's with three agent positions," Dunning said. "If we cut that by a third, if you take out one of three positions, that's losing 4,000 people in our program. The difference will be in the young people we can serve."
Volunteers help fill the gap, she said, but "they have to be trained by staff."
Dunning said she would like to see the county give extension the same 6.6 percent cut "like everyone else."
"That's a difference of almost $89,000," she said.
Buchanan said in the past five years, the center received a 9.8 percent increase in funding while the county's general fund increased 1.7 percent.
"That's the reason they need to take a larger cut," he said.