Cincinnati Zoo gets scolding but committee recommends tax levy renewal go on November ballot

Two public hearings scheduled

CINCINNATI - The Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Committee scolded the Cincinnati Zoo but nevertheless recommended that a zoo levy renewal be placed on the November ballot.

The Zoo needs to reduce its reliance on tax money and bolster its financial condition, the TLRC said.

While recommending renewal of the 0.46-mill property tax, the committee said the levy contract should require the Zoo pay at least 30 percent of its qualified area expenditures over the next five-year cycle instead of the current 20 percent.

Another condition of a new levy contract should be an annual report to the county on the Zoo's implementation of its debt reduction plan, TLRC subcommittee chair Chris Habel wrote in a letter to the county commissioners.

The three commissioners will decide whether or not the levy goes to the voters.

"Based on all we have heard, the Zoo could not continue to operate at its current high level of effectiveness without the levy funds," Habel wrote to the commissioners.

But Habel also noted that the Zoo "receives substantial revenue from earned income on its operations and private donations."

Habel said the Zoo is $11 million in debt due in large part to building a new Vine Street parking lot and main entrance. He said the Zoo plan calls for reducing its debt to about $2 million by 2020 and retiring it completely by 2025.

The Zoo levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $10.60 a year. The levy will bring in about $6.5 million this year.

The county will hold two public hearings before deciding whether to place the levy on the ballot:

> Wednesday, July 10 at 11:30 a.m.
> Wednesday, July 24  at 5:30 p.m.

Both hearings will be take place at the County Administration Building in room 605.

Read the recommendation letter to the commissioners below or at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/724935-tax-levy-review-committee-zoo-recommendation.html

Read the committee's 116-page report, "Performance Review of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden," at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/724937-tax-levy-review-committee-zoo-recommendation.html

 

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