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Review Committee Recommends No Increase In Zoo Levy

Bill Rinehart
Members of the Tax Levy Review Committee present their findings on the zoo levy to Hamilton County commissioners.

The Cincinnati Zoo should not ask for an increased property tax levy. That's the recommendation of a Hamilton County Tax Levy Review subcommittee. Chairwoman Jenny O'Donnell says while the zoo is an important part of the community, it isn't a life-sustaining priority.

"It's not to have any reflection on the zoo. It's a reflection on our economic times, about how our property tax dollars are being spent in this county and how much of a burden that is on the individual homeowners."

O'Donnell says if commissioners choose otherwise, the subcommittee suggests raising the ticket price for visitors who live outside the county. 

"That's going to be awkward and we understand that.  But we'd like them to really consider this is a lost revenue opportunity on the backs of Hamilton County taxpayers."

O'Donnell says the zoo should also spend more money on maintaining infrastructure instead of building new exhibits.

O'Donnell says one change would help the zoo and all the programs funded by all of the eight Hamilton County levies.

"Everybody keeps saying 'we got a levy in the first place at one amount, and we were supposed to get inflationary adjustments for that. We're no longer getting those adjustments.' That would make a significant impact for the recipients of the levies."

Commissioners are also considering when the levy request should be put on the ballot. If they decide on the May election, they'd have to approve an amount by February 7.

Zoo director Thane Maynard says the date doesn't matter to him, but he would like to see an increase to pay for infrastructure upkeep and repairs.