Just over a year after raising its cost of admission by two bucks, the Minnesota Zoo is about to bump it up by another two, becoming one of the priciest zoos of its kind in the nation.

The zoo's board of directors is blaming the decision on the state budget crisis, which threatens to yank several hundred thousand dollars a year of state support.

"The governor has recommended cutting $707,000, and has said he'd like us to look at cutting spending for half of that and revenue increases for the other half, so this addresses that," Steve Kirchner, head of the board's finance committee, told his colleagues late Thursday as they prepared to vote to approve the increase.

The zoo will cut prices slightly in the off-season, following the lead of several other zoos, which acknowledge that they have less to offer when it's cold.

On Jan. 1, 2008, the zoo's adult admission price jumped from $12 to $14, with kids going from $7 to $8. This summer, prices rise to $16 and $10 between Memorial Day and Labor Day, dropping back to $13 and $7 after that.

The in-season rate will make the zoo as expensive as the illustrious Bronx Zoo in New York City and a handful of the 18 comparison zoos that zoo officials checked for prices. Milwaukee charges $12.25 during peak season, Denver $12, and Cleveland $10.

Conversely, they said, it's still a lot cheaper than Valleyfair (adults $38), and a bit cheaper than Underwater Adventures ($18.95), and equal to a Science Museum visit that includes the Omnitheater.

Moreover, they say, the zoo each year gives away more than 100,000 tickets through social service agencies to persons in need. And Peggy Adelmann, chief financial officer, said a membership in the zoo is a deal for families visiting as seldom as twice a year.

Between offers such as those, and a Museum Adventure Pass program that offers free passes through libraries, "well over half of our 1.2 million annual guests currently visit the zoo at a discounted rate or no cost," according to a fact sheet distributed to the board.

The cost of a household membership will rise from $85 to $95.

The board approved the price increases in a unanimous voice vote after a brief discussion.

David Peterson • 952-882-9023