Money goals established for Sacramento Zoo - 'If the money's on the table, I'll know I have a partner. If it isn't, I'll know I don't'

At the last Elk Grove City Council meeting on Wednesday, June 26, money-raising deadlines for the Sacramento Zoological Society (SZS) were memorialized. The SZS operates the Sacramento Zoo, which, with the generous assistance of Elk Grove taxpayers, will be moving its facility to Elk Grove.

Elk Grove Innovations Czar Christopher Jordan explained the agreed-to terms between the city and the SZS during his commentary. Jordan told Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and her four city councilmen that the new zoo's first two phases, 1A and 1B, will cost $302 million.  

Additionally, the SZS must raise $50 million before the city seeks an underwriter for the $114 million in bonds it plans to issue for construction costs. Jordan's commentary also suggested the SZS could borrow money to meet its various deadlines, but Elk Grove taxpayers would not be liable for repayment of that debt. 

The balance of funding will come from Mello Roos fees and other revenue sources, including voter-approved Measure E sales tax revenues. The city and SZS believe they can generate an additional $30 million from other sources, and they hope for in-kind donations. 

The schedule of cumulative payments to Elk Grove from the SZS is as follows:
  • January 1, 2025 - $17.5 million
  • May 1, 2025 - $27.5 million
  • January 1, 2026 - $30 million
  • May 1, 2026 - $40 million
  • January 1, 2027 - $50 million
Jordan said the SZS must make its first donation transfer by October 1, 2024, and quarterly thereafter. Based on the deadlines and Jordan's description, the SZS must transfer at least $12.5 million to the city by October 1.

The entire presentation can be viewed in the video below.

While Jordan said the city could withdraw from the agreement if the SZS fails to achieve the fundraising goals, he did not discuss the parameters under which the city has to amend the agreement if the milestones are unmet. Observers of Elk Grove governance are aware that the city regularly amends things like the general plan to meet its immediate needs.

One elected official who spoke with EGN said the danger for taxpayers is if the SZS comes up short of the $50 million by a few million dollars. Based on this elected official's governance experience, they fear the mayor and her city councilmen would amend the SZS's financial obligation, as they regularly do on other items, further burdening Elk Grove taxpayers to fill multi-million dollar shortages.

By October 1 and January 1, when the city's next payments are due, Elk Grove taxpayers can determine whether the SZS is a reliable partner or one they may have to bail out in the near future. 

As the character Hyman Roth in Godfather II told Michael Corleone, "When I wake if the money's on the table, I'll know I have a partner. If it isn't, I'll know I don't."

So it goes between Elk Grove and the SZS. 

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