Cincinnati Zoo asks Hamilton County officials for a tax levy renewal

CINCINNATI - The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is asking the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners to place a property tax levy renewal on the ballot on the November general election.

The levy would continue taxpayer support of the zoo upon expiration of the levy approved by voters in 2008.

On average, more than 1.3 million people visit the zoo each year. Nearly half are children who either attend the zoo with their families or as a part of school trips. The zoo provides its biggest discount to 85,000 regional school-aged children who use the zoo as a living classroom to further their education, said Craig Maier, the zoo's chairman of the board in a letter addressed to county commissioners.

The Hamilton County tax levy supports zoo operations such as the care and feeding of the zoo's animal collection.

Support from Hamilton County taxpayers has decreased over the last 20 years when inflation is taken into account, Maier said.

The tax levy generated 41 percent of the zoo's annual budget in 1993, and today generates just  20 percent, he added.

The Cincinnati Zoo now gets less of its revenue from public sources compared to other major zoos in the region, according to the letter.

"If this trend were to continue, our mission and the quality and affordability of the zoo experience for the residents of Hamilton County would be placed in jeopardy," Maier wrote.

The issue will be presented to Hamilton County commissioners soon for their review.

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