Voters to Decide on Columbus Zoo Levy Next Week
For the first time in recent years the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has received opposition from Franklin County voters regarding Issue 6, the proposed tax levy that is set to appear on the May 6 primary ballot.
The current property tax levy costs Franklin County residents, that own homes assessed at $100,000 or more, 41 cents a week. The proposed levy would raise that amount to 84 cents per week, or $44 per year.
CEO of the Columbus Zoo, Tom Stalf, said that it’s important to talk about these numbers due to misleading statements and ads about the proposed tax levy. Stalf believes that voters are still positive about contributing to the zoo, despite the tax increase.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response that Franklin County voters say yes,” said Stalf. “With that yes vote, it’s created jobs, and it’s created economic impact.”
In jobs and revenue, the Columbus Zoo estimates that it gives back to Franklin County and its residents nearly $238 million each year.
Opponents to the tax levy have been asking why only Franklin County residents are paying property taxes when the Columbus Zoo is located in Delaware County.
“Oh, Delaware County residents are paying, they’ve been paying since 1927,” said Stalf. “The Columbus Zoo is 588 acres of a nonprofit organization, which means that they [Delaware County] receive zero in property taxes.”
The Columbus Zoo is located in a township on property that is co-owned by the city of Columbus and Franklin County.
Stalf said that if the Columbus Zoo was in a different location, Delaware County would be able to build homes and businesses on that 588 acres that would be able to bring in jobs and revenue to the city.
Opponents of the levy have also raised concerns over what exactly the tax dollars from this levy will be used from, specifically a proposal of $65 million for a “third zoo” located in Downtown Columbus near COSI.
“People think it is a waste of money and shows evidence the Zoo is spending on its “wish list” – not its needs,” said Jonathan Beard, president and CEO of Columbus Compact Corporation. “Owning three zoos funded by Franklin County taxpayers is an extravagance that many people think is inappropriate.”
The city of Columbus is currently investing in an expansion project to clean up the waterways near the Scioto Peninsula where COSI and Veteran’s Memorial are located. They are demolishing the Main Street Dam, cleaning up the water, narrowing the waterways to build an additional 33 acres of land Downtown, and planning to demolish and rebuild a new Veteran’s Memorial.
On the south side of COSI is three acres of land that the city of Columbus and the zoo would like to place a “satellite zoo” to further education for the main zoo campus, as well as to help COSI.
Stalf said the that city would like to see growth, education, and tourist dollars to help COSI.
“We are a community based zoo, and the community is investing in the zoo,” said Stalf. “The great news is that we’re giving back a huge return and that is they key.”
According to a SurveyUSA Election Poll, more than 55 percent of Franklin County residents have said that they will vote “No” to Issue 6, with a trailing 36 percent to vote “Yes”. 389 residents were determined by SurveyUSA to vote in the Ohio Primary on May 6.
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