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Audubon CEO wants to regroup after vote against institute's millage tax

NEW ORLEANS, LA - Ray Forman, the CEO of the Audubon Institute wants to regroup after voters Saturday chose not to approve a new fifty-year tax for the Audubon Institute.

Forman said visitors won't see any changes in the short term.

"Here's the good thing for those lovers of the zoo and those lovers of Audubon. The existing millages don't expire for more than half a decade," said Tulane Political Analyst Mike Sherman.

Forman said much-anticipated projects that are already under construction, such the Nature Center in New Orleans East, will continue.

"The elephant exhibit is a little too small for our elephants, and we want to get more elephants at the zoo. We're looking at a new tiger exhibit, a new lion exhibit, a new African exhibit. We're looking at redoing the sea lion pool, redoing the bird house. At the aquarium we're looking at a new penguin exhibit," said Forman.

However, voters did not agree to a new fifty year, 4.2 mill tax. So, as it stands now, Forman said long term capitol projects to build new facilities will come to a standstill once the current millage expires.

"We've heard the voters. There's a strong feeling against taxes," said Forman.

Sherman said, it was likely the long time frame that turned voters off.

"Listen, Audubon tried for a 50 year millage. That's a bit longer than almost anything we've seen on the ballet in recent times," said Sherman.

Without the millage, Forman said admission and concession sales would be enough for operating costs but not enough for expansions. He said that threatens a serious slip in the quality of the exhibits.

It's a threat he's not prepared to accept.

"We heard what the vote was. We heard loud and clear, and our plan is to go back, review, but we're just as committed and passionate about providing quality attractions for our families as ever. With that passion, we're going to come back with a better plan and get it approved next time," said Forman.

Forman said what is approved in the future will be matched by the Institute one to one in order to build world class facilities like those both locals, and many tourists, enjoy in New Orleans today.

Forman pointed out that the zoo and aquarium are the city's top family tourist destinations, which are worth an estimated $600 million a year in economic impact.

The Nature Center in New Orleans East has still not come back since Hurricane Katrina. Forman said that project was held up by the city, but it is now fully underway and in phase 1 of construction.

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