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Chabot Science Center Short of Funds By $1 Million - City May Help - Montclarion

Chabot hopes Oakland provides funding
The Space and Science Center has made cuts but still faces a deficit in June
By Eric Kurhi
The Chabot Space and Science Center is hoping the city of Oakland will help it cope with a predicted financial shortfall caused by lackluster attendance and reduced federal funding.

Alex Barnett, the center's executive director, said they have made some cuts and increased fund-raising efforts, but because of lagging box-office revenues they still might come up short at the end of the fiscal year this June.

"Unless we dramatically increase the gate, there is a significant chance we may end the year a few hundred thousand dollars adrift," she said.

Federal cuts have also hurt -- for example, cuts to NASA's budget meant the institution could not offer Chabot any assistance this year.

The city, on the other hand, is looking at an $8.5 million budget surplus, mainly due to a booming real estate market. Barnett said she hopes some of it could be used to balance the center's budget.

"I'm aware the city has significant priorities, like the police," she said, "but I also believe that the center has given more than 100 years of service to Oakland, and serves about 50,000 students with vital science exposure each year. It's a relatively small request."

She said that for most of the center's history, it was a civic-funded institution. Currently, the city pays $180,000 of its $6.5 million annual operating cost, according to Vice Mayor Jean Quan, who represents the district that includes the center.

Funds from a measure passed in 2002 to help the facility, as well as Oakland's museum and zoo, can only be used for capital projects.

"It can't pay the lighting bill but it helped us build the lights," Barnett said.

Quan said she hopes to speed up the process of figuring out how to spend the surplus, but added that her council colleagues "want to look at the whole picture before starting to spend it piecemeal."

However, she said the amount of support the center receives from the city is less than what is given to the museum and zoo, and that she thinks most council members would agree to pitch in a little more from the city coffers.

"We knew we would be raising extra money when we started this," Quan said.
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