Thursday, Oct 27, 2016
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1-mill, 10-year capital levy for Toledo Zoo is back on ballot

Amid the exotic sights at the Toledo Zoo, visitors this summer may catch a glimpse of the local taxation ecosystem as the zoo gears up for another levy campaign.

The zoo's board of directors voted unanimously yesterday to return to the ballot in November with a 1-mill, 10-year capital improvement levy.

The issue was defeated in the May primary. An 0.85-mill operating levy was approved.

Board members say the zoo needs to "pull out all the stops" in this campaign. That means zoo visitors can expect a little tax education.

"I don't think we can rely on a traditional levy campaign to get this passed. We should have a six-month levy campaign,'' board member Tony Shelbourn said. "We need to be communicating to everybody who walks through these gates to say, 'These are our plans.' ''

Zoo Executive Director Anne Baker said employees have suggested an informational effort with signs throughout the zoo that explain proposed zoo improvements to visitors.

The capital levy would pay for an expanded elephant and rhino area, a year-round children's zone, aquarium repairs, and a new parking lot.

Board members said some voters complained that the zoo had threatened the public with the loss of its elephants, Renee and 3-year-old Louie, during the last campaign. The zoo will have to give up its elephants if it can't expand its elephant facilities.

But board member Cindy Redmann said it is critical that the public understand the consequences of levy failure.

"If we didn't tell the truth ... and we had to get rid of Louie, I think they would have been more furious,'' she said.

The levy will now go before the Citizen's Tax Levy Review Committee, which will advise Lucas County commissioners on whether the issue should be on the November ballot.

Ms. Baker said she hopes the November election will present the zoo's tax issue in a new light. The levy is a described on the ballot as a new tax, but Ms. Baker hopes the ballot can include additional introductory language explaining that while the issue is technically a new tax, it actually replaces a levy that expired in 2004. The 1-mill levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $31 a year.

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