CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a renewal of the tax levy that provides millions for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden each year, ensuring Fiona the baby hippo and friends at least five more years of luxe living.
The levy, which will not increase taxes, charges Hamilton County about five cents for every $100 their property is worth over a five-year period. According to Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, this will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $10 each year for the next five.
The zoo earns about $6.55 million from the levy annually, but that number covers a smaller and smaller portion of its cumulative financial needs, director Thane Maynard argued in February. Over the course of the preceding decade, he said, the levy went from covering 41 percent of the zoo's budget to just 17 percent.
He unsuccessfully petitioned that Hamilton County Commission to approve an increase for inflation, which would have added about $3.50 to the bill of the aforementioned $100,000 property owner.
"The levy funds basic zoo needs -- that's the care of animals, care of the gardens and maintenance," Maynard said in February. "Obviously, care of the animals and care of the gardens take priority, and we'll continue to do a world-class job."
Commissioners' decision to reject the increase, he added then, would force the zoo to deprioritize some infrastructure projects on its 150-year-old campus.
"I believe we have to consider any request for new funding in the context of all of the other demands on our county's resources," Commissioner Denise Driehaus said at the time.