(April 23, 2003) -- LB's Aquarium, which City Hall and its supporters once claimed was expected to be self-supporting, will require $1,795,620 in public money from LB's Transient Occupancy Tax to make a May, 2003 payment to bondholders.
Responding to an inquiry from LBReport.com, Mike Killebrew of LB's Budget Office gave us the figure today, noting the sum was anticipated and is already budgeted. (It was approved by the City Council as part of its Sept. 2002 vote adopting City Hall's budget.)
No Tidelands Funds were tapped to support the Aquarium in 2003 or 2002, Mr. Killebrew noted.
LB budget documents indicate that LB's FY 02-03 Transient Occupancy (hotel room) Tax is expected to total roughly $12.4 million [figures cited here are rounded and approximate]. The City Council has directed that LB's hotel room TOT be split, with half ($6.2 mil expected in FY 02-03) allocated to City Hall's General Fund...and the other half going to City Hall's Special Advertising and Promotion projects, except for TOT collected from hotels within the Downtown Redevelopment Project Area, which goes to LB's Redevelopment Agency. The latter will be tapped for the $1.8 million used to cover the Aquarium bond payment.
Mr. Killebrew indicated the 2003 Aquarium cost is more than in 2002 ($700,000) because last year some Aquarium reserves remained to be tapped...but these are now tapped out.
Following a restructuring of the original Aquarium, LB taxpayers now own the physical Aquarium building and the like...as well as its debt. The Aquarium of the Pacific leases, manages and runs the facility as an accredited aquarium and zoo association. The Aquarium is a not-for-profit entity governed by a board of directors...whose current members read like a who's who of LB's establishment. Among the current Aquarium of the Pacific boardmembers listed on the Aquarium's web site (a few salient names, alphabetically):
Gary DeLong [now an LBUSD School Board candidate], James Gray, James C. Hankla Dr. E. Jan Kehoe, Douglas Otto, Carmen O. Perez and Warren Iliff.
The Aquarium bond payment coverage with public money is triggered by an Aquarium shortfall under a payment arrangement approved (despite some public warnings at the time) by prior City Councils.