The Bio Park, with its zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens, is the number one tourist attraction in the State of New Mexico.
During the 2015 municipal election, Albuquerque voters wisely approved with an overwhelming majority the voter petition drive initiative to increase the gross receipts tax that will raise $255 million dollars over 15 years for the Bio Park.
Voters decided to invest in their community and themselves.
The gross receipts tax initiative was needed because some $20 million dollars plus in repairs and maintenance to the facilities were ignored by the Berry Administration for 6 years.
There are $40 million dollars in upgrades and exhibits needed to the Bio Park facilities.
There have been a few reports on what is happening to the Bio Park gross receipts tax funding such as the new penguin attraction.
“I am quite excited to have a person of his caliber join our team and help guide the future of the Bio Park”, said Mayor Berry in appointing a new ABQ Bio Park Director hired to implement the new ABQ Bio Park master plan and guide capital improvements worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars over 15 years.
Berry took credit for something he did not advocate for, he did not like nor did support nor vote for, and something that was needed for the Bio Park because of the Berry administration serious neglect of one of Albuquerque’s crown jewels.
ART BUS PROJECT DIVERSION
Congress’ decision to not consider outgoing President Obama’s budget jeopardizes the bulk of the ART Bus Projects funding and places the entire ART Bus project funding at serious risk.
It has also been reported that congressional interim committees have recommended steep cuts in FTA grants for projects such as ART.
In 2017, the City of Albuquerque will not be getting a penny from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), even though construction of the ART bus project is scheduled to be completed by September, 2017.
After the ART bus project is completed, there is no doubt the contractor will be demanding payment in full of $120 million.
Mayor Berry and the City Council have gambled with taxpayer’s money on getting a $69 million dollar FTA federal grant that may never come.
The Mayor and City Council were repeatedly warned but no they wanted to cram the project down taxpayer’s throats without a public vote.
After construction of the ART Bus project is completed where in the general fund will the money come from if the federal grant money is not there?
One of my big fears is that Mayor Berry and the City Council will divert money from the already existing Bio Park budget to make up for any shortfall in the $120 million ART bus project when the Feds do not approve the grant.
The City Council and the Berry Administration could reduce the existing Bio Park budget and divert that money to the ART Bus Project saying the new Bio Park gross receipts tax is available.
The Berry administration could easily go back and redesign the ART bus routes on Central and build bus stops at the BIO Park attractions so they can justify diverting money from the Bio Park funds to fund the ART bus project.
Albuquerque voters and the Bio Park Society need to be vigilant and make sure that all the millions that are slated for the Bio Park generated by the gross receipts tax actually go to the Bio Park.
Voters should not allow the City Council to reduce existing funding of the Bio Park in the general fund.
Just as important, voters need to hold accountable all the City Councilors, like Diane Gibson running for reelection and candidates for Mayor, like Ken Sanchez, as well as City Councilors Pat Davis, Isaac Benton, Don Harris, Trudy Jones, Brad Winters, who all supported the disaster known as ART and refused to put it on the ballot for voter approval.