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St. Louis Science Center Cuts Debt, Increases Donations

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The St. Louis Science Center is facing more than 16 million dollars worth of debt.  But leaders revealed Thursday fund raising efforts have already produced 36.5 million dollars worth of contributions and pledges which will be used to pay down the debt.

The Center faced a 20 million dollar debt at the end of 2012 before paying off a line of credit loan of $4.5 million.

"We are in a much better state from a debt standpoint than we were five years ago, even six months ago," said Science Center Commission Chair Douglas Yaeger after Thursday's budget presentation to the Zoo Museum District Board.

The ZMD authorizes property tax revenue for each of five cultural institutions in the region including the Zoo and History Museum.  Questions about the Science Center's spending prompted leadership changes and staff reductions several years ago.

The institution's new CEO and President Bert Vescolani told ZMD Board members "I think we're going in the right direction and making the appropriate changes to keep  this place strong."

Taxpayers contribute just over ten million dollars a year to the operation of the Science Center.  Revenue from concessions, movies, special exhibits, a gift shop and facility rentals along with grants and donations make up the rest of the annual operating budget of 14.7 million dollars.

Science Center leaders plan to start an endowment fund in the future to help finance building improvements, future exhibits and other needs.
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