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LWV League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area Education Fund
Smart Voter
Hamilton County, OH March 4, 2008 Election
Issue 17
Zoo Park Services
Hamilton County

Proposed Tax Levy Renewal & Increase - A majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage

144348 / 58.8% Yes votes ...... 101155 / 41.2% No votes

See Also: Index of all Issues

Information shown below: Impartial Analysis |

A renewal of 0.4 mill and an increase of 0.06 mill to constitute a tax for the benefit of the County of Hamilton, 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 2008, first due in calendar year 2009.

Impartial Analysis from League of Women Voters

This proposed 5-year levy is a renewal and increase of an existing 5-year levy that expires at the end of 2008. The levy will generate approximately $36.3 million over 5 years or about $7.2 million annually. According to the County Office of Budget and Strategic Initiative the total levy request falls within the inflation calculation for the 5-year levy period. Under the existing levy, the owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 paid approximately $9.12 annually. If the proposed levy is approved, that cost shall be $9.44 per year beginning in 2009. This levy was placed on the ballot by the Hamilton County Commissioners at the request of the Board of Directors of the Zoo.

What the Levy Would Do:

The levy would provide about 23% of the Zoo's total annual operating budget. Proceeds can only be used for direct costs of operating the Zoo in one or more of the following categories: feeding, care and health of animals, horticulture and maintenance.


The Cincinnati Zoological Garden opened in 1875 and is the second oldest and one of the top Zoos in the United States. The Zoo was purchased by the City of Cincinnati in 1932 and the present day nonprofit Zoological Society of Cincinnati came into being. In the 1980s the ecological relationships of plants and wildlife became increasingly more important. This led to the 1987 change in the official name of the organization as the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The Zoological Society of Cincinnati manages the Zoo under the leadership of a Director responsible to a Board of Trustees. Of the 32 member board, three are appointed by the Mayor of the City of Cincinnati, three are appointed by the Hamilton County Commissioners and 26 are elected by the society's membership for 3-year staggered terms. A study by University of Cincinnati Economics Center for Education and Research found that the Zoo has a total annual economic impact of $124.6 million, in the Greater Cincinnati region, an increase of more than 41% since 2001. An estimated 48% (509,014) of the Zoo s annual visitors are children. Of that number, more than 212,000 pre-school and school-age children participate in Zoo educational programs annually. Prior to the 2003 Zoo Levy, the A. T. Hudson Co. performed an operations review of the Zoo. Their report identified savings that might be achieved in operating costs to reduce the cost-per-visitor ratio. The goal was for the Zoo to become less dependent on a property tax levy and to achieve a cost-per-visitor ratio of $16.94. This goal has not been met. Although a number of A. T. Hudson's recommendations were adopted with favorable outcomes, operating expenses continue to increase by approximately 3% a year. There is strong competition for recreation dollars in the area and Zoo attendance has remained relatively flat for the past 4 years. There are significant deficit balances in the Zoo operating funds. The 2007 budget decreased expenses by $2.4 million from 2006. Operation costs were $218,900 under budget. In July 2007, Thane Maynard was named new CEO of the zoo. His position as Vice President of Public Information was not filled, eliminating one executive management position. In August 2007, Joseph Decosimo & Company LLC, consultants, presented a Management & Operations Review of the Zoo as required by Tax Policy. Fifteen items recommended in the Decosimo Report and agreed upon by the Zoo are directed towards decreasing deficits and promoting attendance at the Zoo.

Recommendations of the Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC):

The TLRC made the following recommendations to the Hamilton County Commissioners concerning the Levy Request of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden: " The members of the TLRC, after a total review of the Zoo s finances and performance over the last 5 years, are recommending that the new Zoo Levy be funded in the amount of $36,348,020.00 for the 5-year levy period. " The TLRC also requests that a mid term review be performed during the next levy cycle for the purpose of evaluating the status of the list of 15 items recommended in the Decosimo Report and agreed to by the Zoo.

  Official Information

Hamilton County Auditor Tax Analysis

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Created: July 31, 2008 16:23 PDT
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