ZooTampa, Florida Aquarium land ‘sprinkle’ funding in 2020-21 budget

It's a win for coral reefs and Florida Panthers.

Both the Florida Aquarium and ZooTampa ended up scoring in the 2020-21 budget despite earlier indications they might not.

Both will receive $250,000 as part of the House and Senate’s sprinkle fund, if the line items survive Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto pen.

The Senate included $250,000 for ZooTampa in its sprinkle list, half of what it had previously offered in budget conference. The final number matches what the House had offered.

The House, meanwhile, is providing the same allocation to the Florida Aquarium, a win for the non-profit after the Senate previously had funding zeroed out.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the finalized budget Thursday.

ZooTampa asked for $1 million in an appropriations request this year. That funding would help pay for renovations and expansions to the zoo’s existing single panther habitat in order to house three non-releasable Florida Panthers and provide additional panther rehabilitation.

The Zoo received slightly less, $200,000, from the state in last year’s budget for the same project.

The Florida Aquarium requested $1.5 million for a new lab aimed at increasing coral reefs in Florida waters.

“This new facility will triple the sexual reproduction of genetically diverse coral colonies at the Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach through cutting edge advancements in induced spawning,” the request reads.

Scientists and researchers from the Florida Aquarium will partner with universities and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on the project.

Visitors will be able to observe the work being done in the laboratory and learn how they impact oceans.

While both organizations are receiving less than they requested, it’s still a win for both. Requesting organizations often receive less than they requested under the thought process that goes something like, ask for more, expect less.

The funding inclusion is also a win considering the Legislative Session’s unique challenges. The budget negotiation process took a sharp turn last week as threats from the coronavirus continued to worsen.

Budget negotiators were forced to reconsider some plans including a massive House tax package as they tried to incorporate $300 million in reserves to plan for and respond to the outbreak.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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