Election Preview: Issue 2 would raise $6.8M annually for Cincinnati Zoo

Ballot issue is renewal of an expiring levy

CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County voters will decide on the renewal of a five-year property tax levy for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The 0.46-mill levy is a renewal of an existing levy that expires at year’s end.

If approved, the levy will generate about $6.8 million annually in revenues. Because it is a renewal, property owners wouldn’t see an increase in their tax bill. The levy costs the owner of a $100,000 home $10.60 per year in property taxes.

Levy supporters noted the renewal is actually a decrease in money for the zoo due to inflation.

Funds generated by the levy may only be used for the care and feeding of animals, horticultural purposes and building maintenance.

The zoo has received tax levy support since the early 1980s.

The levy provides about 23 percent of the zoo's operating expenses, down from 40 percent in 1993. Zoo administrators estimate a further decline, down to less than 20 percent by 2018.

During the past five years, the zoo has made a concerted effort to reduce its operating costs, supporters said.

The savings include reducing energy consumption by 11 percent, and reducing water consumption from 220 million gallons annually to less than 74 million gallons.

There is no organized opposition to the levy.

The zoo is located on 65 acres in Cincinnati's Avondale neighborhood.

More than 1.4 million people visit the zoo annually, including 300,000 students. A University of Cincinnati study last year concluded the zoo has an economic impact of $143 million on the region.

Also, the zoo is responsible for 1,700 jobs and more than $1.5 million in tax revenue for Cincinnati and Hamilton County, the study stated.

The facility features more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species, making it one of the largest zoological and botanical collections in the nation.

The Zoological Society of Cincinnati was founded in 1873 and officially opened its facility two years later, making the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden the second oldest public zoo in the United States, after the Central Park Zoo in New York.

In 1987 the local zoo was designated as a National Historic Landmark due to the age and architectural features of several of its attractions.

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