On Tuesday, voters in Jackson and Clay Counties will decide on a sales tax increase for dramatic changes at the Kansas City Zoo. Supporters of the zoo tax call it the opportunity of a lifetime.
They say it would put the Kansas City Zoo on the national map. The biggest challenge to the tax passing, may have nothing to do with the zoo. It promises new jobs and added attractions here that would benefit visitors and bring in more tourism dollars.
Supporters say the zoo's latest attraction shows how more funding would benefit the community. But, the biggest hurdle to the plan, may be the timing. The zoo credits the $11 million Polar Bear Exhibit for driving attendance through the roof. Attendance has already surpassed the 2010 total of 635,000.
"We need more visitor amenities, need more staff, want to be able to be leader in science education and this money would help us provide that," Julie Neemeyer with the Kansas City Zoo.
Hanging in the balance are exhibits that include apes, penguins and more big cats.
The tax measure would also mean half price admission for adults in the voting counties, and more educational programs for children and in schools.
"We enjoy the educational aspect of it, also the beauty of being here this time of year, anytime of year," said visitor Sarrisa Haley.
Sarrissa Haley and her family are in favor of the zoo tax, but they fear the staggering economy may ruffle some feathers.
"It's a tricky thing being a consumer and wanting to have something here for us, but then having to see that increase in taxes is challenging," Haley said.
The sales tax measure is expected to cause a spike in employment opportunities creating about 1,000 construction jobs and nearly doubling the number of zoo workers. The zoo hopes voters will help it continue its upward climb.
If passed in Jackson and Clay counties, only those families would receive discount admission and educational outreach programs.