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Smart Voter
Hamilton County, OH November 5, 2013 Election
Issue 2
Proposed Tax Levy (Renewal)
Hamilton County

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 130707 / 80.26% Yes votes ...... 32139 / 19.74% No votes

See Also: Index of all Issues

Results as of Jan 15 7:15pm, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (545/545)
Information shown below: Summary | Impartial Analysis |

A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage. A renewal of a tax for the benefit of Hamilton County, Ohio, for the purpose of PROVIDING OR MAINTAINING ZOOLOGICAL PARK SERVICES AND FACILITIES at a rate not exceeding forty-six hundredths (0.46) mill for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to four and six-tenths cents ($0.046) for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for five (5) years, commencing in 2013, first due in calendar year 2014.

Summary Prepared by The League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area:
This is a proposed property tax levy not to exceed forty-six one hundredths (.46 mills) of one mill, to supplement the General Fund of Hamilton County for the purpose of providing and maintaining Zoological Park Service and Facilities for five years. This proposed 5-year levy is a renewal of an existing 5-year levy that expires at the end of 2013. The levy will generate about $6.8 million annually. The owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 would pay approximately $10.60 annually, the same as currently paid. The levy was placed on the ballot by the Hamilton County Commissioners at the request of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (the "Zoo") following a review by the Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC).

Impartial Analysis from The League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area
The Zoo levy now accounts for about 23% of the operating expenses. The Zoo projects a continued steady decrease to less than 20% by 2018. Proceeds can only be used for direct costs of operating the Zoo in one or more of the following categories: animal care, botanical gardens, and maintenance and utilities.

The Cincinnati Zoological Garden opened in 1875, was purchased by the City of Cincinnati in 1932 and the present day non-profit Zoological Society of Cincinnati, changed in 1987 to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, came into being. Under contracts with the City of Cincinnati, the Society operates and maintains the real and personal property of the Zoo under a Director responsible to a Board of Trustees.

The Zoo has been receiving tax levy support since the early 1980's. The current levy provides about 23% of the Zoo's operating expenses down from $40% in 1993. The Zoo projects continued steady decrease to less than 20% by 2018. According to the Consultant review, other major zoos in the area receive higher levels of public support. Zoos provide economic benefits in addition to education, conservation and entertainment missions.

The Zoo had record daily attendance and increases in membership over the past five years. The 2007 attendance was 950,000; in 2012 attendance was 1,439,000. Probable factors contributing to the increase include: competitive admission rates during the recession, major changes to the entrance and parking facilities, new exhibits, and use of social media and traditional news outlets in effective ways. The increases in attendance and membership resulted in a $4 million increase in annual direct operating revenues between 2007 and 2011. Annual operating expenses have increased by $5.1 million in the same period. These are fixed expenses and have grown at a pace greater than inflation.

According to a 2012 study by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, the Zoo contributed $143 million to the local economy. Visitors from outside the area accounted for 46.5% of the Zoo's total economic impact due to spending at locations apart from the Zoo. The Zoo generates 1,700 jobs, $51.7 million in household wages and benefits, and $1.74 million in hotel, sales and income taxes tax revenue for Hamilton County, Cincinnati and other tax entities. The Zoo hosts a four-year preparatory program + Zoo Academy and serves as the leading non-formal science educator in Southwest Ohio. Over 300,000 students participate in the Zoo's educational programs annually. The solar panels and energy efficient additions have reduced utility costs by over $1 million per year. The Zoo has received an award from the Alliance to Save Energy for its investment in green buildings and commitment to educating visitors about energy efficient technologies and practices.

Tax Levy Review Committee Findings The Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC) reviewed the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (the "Zoo") tax levy request for the November 2013 ballot. The review included engaging consultants of Howard, Wershbale and Co. (HW&Co.) to conduct a performance review of the Zoo, site visits, presentations from Zoo Board members and executive leadership, and a public hearing regarding the proposed levy.

The TLRC believes the Zoo contributes significantly to the economy and vibrancy of the entire Greater Cincinnati region. The increased attendance and revenue associated with the new offerings at the Zoo are outcomes representing a substantial return on the taxpayer investment of levy funds. There is concern about funding maintenance of the new exhibits and the historic structures and infrastructure that currently exists. From this concern, the TLRC recommends requiring the Zoo to increase payment of its qualified area expenditures, i.e. the categories noted above.

The TLRC major findings include: recommending renewal of the levy at its current millage and encouraging the Zoo to continue the trends of reducing reliance on levy funds and bolstering its financial condition.

TLRC reports: +

  Official Information

Hamilton County Auditor

  • What will this levy cost me? - Information from the Auditor is available for all proposed tax levies in Hamilton County. Go to the website to find your property information. Then click on "Levy Info" on the left side of the page.
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners Board of Elections
  • Request your Absentee Ballot - If you plan to vote by mail this election, you must request a ballot be sent to your home. Download the Vote By Mail Application from the Board of Elections website.
Nonpartisan Information

League of Women Voters

News and Analysis

Google News Search

Campaign Information

Friends of the Cincinnati Zoo
A website in favor of Issue 2
General Links

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

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Created: January 15, 2014 17:15 PST
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