At the cost of a dime a week for the typical Lucas County homeowner, voters can preserve one of northwest Ohio's educational and entertainment treasures: Imagination Station. Issue 26, the science center's property tax proposal on this fall's county ballot, merits a YES vote.
The nonprofit science center along Toledo's riverfront seeks a five-year, 0.17-mill tax renewal — not an increase — to maintain its family-oriented exhibits, facilities, and programs, to run daily operations, and to make capital improvements. The renewal would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $5.21 a year.
The tax raises $1.15 million a year, accounting for 41 percent of Imagination Station's budget. The center would not start to collect money from the renewal until its current levy expires next year.
Imagination Station attracts nearly 200,000 visitors a year — mostly young people, but also a large number of adults. The county levy and related support allow many Lucas County students to come to the center for free, on Saturdays and on adopt-a-school field trips. In return for the tax, county residents qualify for discounts on admission and membership.
The center's 250 hands-on exhibits, including permanent and traveling ones, offer valuable — and fun — instruction in energy and the environment, engineering, farming, technology, and brain science. Along with the entertainment the exhibits provide are vital lessons about diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyles.
Imagination Station gets valuable private and corporate support. The center has cut costs and trimmed its staff to keep its budget in balance.
But it also needs public funding from its operating millage to stay in business. Previous levy failures forced the science center to close in 2007; voter approval of the current tax enabled it to reopen two years later.
If voters reject the tax proposal, science center officials say they'll try again next year. But it shouldn't come to that.
The price tag for the tax is small and the return on investment is large. Students routinely credit their discoveries at Imagination Station with starting them on career paths to become scientists, engineers, and teachers.
Bigger cities across the country, including Detroit, have had to shut their science centers because of a lack of money. Imagination Station, which overcame a similar fate, doesn't deserve to confront it again. Vote YES on Issue 26.