Toledo Zoo levy provides maintenance, care for animalsWritten by Emily Tucker | | email@example.com
The Citizens Committee for the Zoo and volunteers have been going door-to-door making sure residents of Lucas County are informed about Issue 17.
Anne Baker, executive director of the Toledo Zoo, said a network of volunteers has been distributing signs, making phone calls and handing out information across Toledo to make sure everyone is aware of the levy renewal that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. She also said people have been calling to ask for levy signs to place in their front yards.
“We’ve had almost 1,500 people say they would like a sign for their yard,” she said. “People in the county love their zoo. They use the zoo.”
The four co-chairs of the Citizens Committee for the Zoo are Mayor Mike Bell, former educator Sam Burnett, President of UAW Local 12 Bruce Baumhower and Betsy Brady, the vice president and treasurer of Plastic Technologies, Inc. Baker said the co-chairs solicit funds to support the campaign by making sure residents are aware of what the levy renewal entails.
The Toledo Zoo levy renewal is for .85 mills. The levy will continue to help pay for the animals’ food and medical care, plus utilities and any necessary repairs. The funding comes from property taxes, and Baker said owners of a home that’s valued at $100,000 would pay about $2.16 per month.
Baker said the expenses rise every year, especially when the cost of gas rises. The cost of food has been stable, but purchasing medicine for the animals has become more expensive.
Even if the levy passes, a small increase in zoo admission prices and membership fees will go into effect. Lucas County residents will still pay less than non-Lucas County residents.
Baker said when considering zoo attendance per capita, Wood County has the next highest rate of people who use the Toledo Zoo. However, in June the Wood County commissioners voted against adding the levy to the Wood County ballot.
“The zoo is a regional facility that surrounding counties benefit from,” Baker said. “However, we’re anticipating a little bit of a drop [in visitors], but we think we offer an incredible product. The new elephant exhibit opens next year.”
Baker said she is optimistic about the levy being renewed.
“Lucas County residents love their zoo,” Baker said. “Even though we’ve lost about $1 million in levy funding because of property tax values, we aren’t asking for a bigger levy.”
The Toledo Zoo has lost $1.2 million since 2007-2012 because of the decrease in property values. Baker said the Toledo Zoo has tried to gain funds through donations and sponsorships, and the challenge is “doing more with less.”
“We’ve been managing, and it’s very difficult,” she said. “However, we will come in with a balanced budget.”
Although residents have shown their support, Baker said every now and then people come out and say they don’t use the zoo.
Joe Pfeiffer, chair of the Lucas County Libertarian Party, said the party doesn’t support the levy renewal because it “isn’t something that’s in pursuance of public good.”
“It’s not necessarily fair to charge everyone in the county for a service they might not use,” Pfeiffer said.
Pfeiffer said the Toledo Zoo could find other ways of obtaining funding, such as through private charities, donors and other sources.
“If people would consider it a commodity that they had the option to go out and buy, maybe they wouldn’t feel so inclined to vote for the levy,” he said.