Update: WLBT reports the zoo lost its accreditation. The zoo will appeal the decision.
Auditors of the Jackson Zoological Society warned of financial problems in a January 2013 report submitted to the city. However, the report was not provided to the city council. A January 9, 2013 letter accompanying the audit stated:
As discussed in Note 14 to the financial statements, the Zoo's current liabilities exceed its current assets by $254,506. This indicates that the Zoo may not be able to pay its liabilities as they come due and payable. These conditions raise substantial doubt that about its ability to continue as a going concern. Management's plans are also described in Note 14.
Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber told JJ the city council never received the report. JJ filed a public records request for the most recent audited financial statement. The city provided this report. However, the contract with the Jackson Zoological Society states the non-profit is supposed to provide quarterly financial statements to the city. JZS was supposed to provide the statements on April 15 and March 15. Another one is due on October 15. JZS has not provided one since January. Some notes from the audit:
*Zoo lost $550,770 in 2011 (P.3. Subtracted revenue from expenses on income statement) and earned a profit of $49,799 in 2012. However, that data is before September 30, 2012. Nearly a year ago.
*Admissions were only 35% of Zoo revenue in 2011 and were equaled by a city of Jackson grant. Admissions were 30% of revenue in 2012 as Jackson increased the grant to $929,200. However, $653,437 was included as "net assets released from restrictions satisfaction of purpose restrictions (DFA provided assets to the zoo with conditions placed on them.)
*Note 8: JZS pays Trustmark $68,743 each year. However, a balloon payment of $431,337 is due on March 15, 2016. Remember those grant payments from Jackson? That is the collateral.
*Note 9: City claims JZS owes $755,000 for water and sewer use. Zoo only recognized $358,512 and disputes the rest.
Kingfish note: Absent any other information, it is unfortunate the contract has not been followed. Several councilmen complained to me they were blindsided by the zoo's problems. Apparently the Johnson administration did not provide the most recent audit to the city council. Such information is not a surprise to those familiar with Jackson city government worked over the last few years. Making matters worse, the zoo apparently did not provide the quarterly financial statements as required by contract.
The Kingfish went to the zoo yesterday and tried to obtain a copy of the most recent tax return (Form 990). A representative informed me it would be posted on the internet by Friday and they couldn't give me one since Executive Director Beth Poff was out of town. I informed her that IRS regulations mandate nonprofits will make available to the public a most recent copy of their tax returns during business hours on demand. I was informed the zoo did not have one available but one would be provided by Friday. What is the Kingfish's opinion? Sloppiness. Sloppiness in communication. Sloppiness in reporting. Throw in a certain administration's tendency to jealously control all information and here we are. However, opinions can change. More information will be posted as it becomes available.