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View of Aesop's Playhouse, a children's theater, is one of the latest structures built within Children's Fairyland, in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010. Children's Fairyland celebrates 60 years. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

OAKLAND -- As Oakland leaders slashed their way to $28 million in proposed budget cuts, several leading cultural organizations are angry that they're getting cut, while others go untouched.

"I don't want to be perceived as a whiner, but it doesn't seem to be equitable," said C.J. Hirschfield, executive director of Children's Fairyland.

Fairyland, along with the Oakland Zoo and the Hacienda Peralta Historical Park are slated to lose 40 percent of their city subsidies under a budget cutting proposal that goes before the City Council on Wednesday.

But city subsidies are proposed to remain untouched for the Chabot Space and Science Center and the Asian Cultural Center. Those groups last year entered into two-year contracts with the city that would have been difficult to modify, officials said.

Likewise, city funding for the Oakland Museum of California is bound by contract, that already lowered the city's annual subsidy by $1.5 million last year, said Lori Fogarty, the museum's director.

Oakland has been cutting subsidies to several nonprofits in recent years.

The subsidies constitute only a tiny fraction of the organizations' budgets, but this latest round of cuts would potentially drive up admission prices at the zoo and jeopardize outreach programs to low-income students at both the zoo and Fairyland, officials said. "This is a highly significant cut," said Joel Parrott, executive director of the Oakland Zoo.


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Just a few years ago, the zoo, which has an annual $12.5 million budget, received a $1 million city subsidy, Parrott said. That had been lowered in recent years to $539,895, and is now slated to drop to below $325,000.

Fairyland said its cut was especially galling because it's Oakland's only major cultural institution that doesn't get a share of hotel tax revenue that has helped the others, including the zoo, partially offset previous city cuts.

"We were not included in this effort to raise money, but we're always included when the cuts happen," Hirschfield said. "We don't understand that."

Fairyland, which has an annual budget of just under $2 million, now is facing the loss of $54,600 in city funds -- less than 3 percent of its total operating budget.

The proposed reductions still must be approved by the City Council, which has until the end of the month to cut $28 million from the city's budget to offset the loss of redevelopment funding.

The city's proposal includes consolidating departments to save on administrative costs and laying off the equivalent of 105 full-time employees.

The only entity slated to lose its entire city subsidy is the Jack London Aquatic Center. Last year, the center's nonprofit board of directors dissolved after losing much of its city funding.

Although city programs at the center had already been eliminated, the center will continue to host rowing groups that pay rent to use the facility, officials said.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.

getting ever smaller pieces of the financial pie
$325,000: Amount of subsidy the Oakland Zoo will receive, down from $539,895 in recent years. The zoo has a $12.5 million budget.
$54,600: Amount in funding Fairyland is slated to lose, less than 3 percent of its total annual operating budget of $2 million
$28 million: Total amount of Oakland's proposed budget cuts, much of which has come at the expense of local cultural organizations