The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s board voted 17-0 on Jan. 8 to put a permanent, 1.25-mill property-tax issue on the ballot for the May 6 primary election.
Although the Zoo is located in Delaware County, the issue would be on the ballot in Franklin County.
“The Zoo has been supported for the last 30 years from Franklin County voters, and so that relationship continues,” said President and CEO Tom Stalf. “We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to provide and we really looked very hard at the improvements and things that we need to do.”
The Zoo’s current 10-year, 0.75-mill levy expires in 2015 and costs $21.29 per $100,000 valuation annually. If approved, the continuing levy would cost $43.75 a year.
Stalf said the next step will be to ask the Franklin County commissioners to put the issue on the ballot. The commissioners meet weekly, and the filing deadline to be on the ballot is 4 p.m. Feb. 5.
If approved, the levy would allow the Zoo to make a number of improvements, Stalf said, such as revitalizing the North American and African forest sections, as well as the Discovery Reef. “The facilities already are in existence, but they are older and are in need of repair,” he said.
In addition, Stalf said the Zoo would like to have an exhibit at the front entrance called Conservation Cove, that would feature sea lions.
“We’ve also talked about remodeling Jungle Jack’s Landing for a facility called Wild World, which would also include many interactive fun educational facilities.”
The Zoo would also like to build a facility in downtown Columbus near COSI.
“It would be a satellite campus that would feature animals that you wouldn’t see on the Powell campus, so it would be rainforest animals, as well as a larger aquarium piece,” Stalf said. “There would be an admission charge, and we want to make sure that just like the main campus here, that it’s affordable.”
The nonprofit Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing more than 575 species. The Powell complex includes Zoombezi Bay water park, Safari Golf Course. The Zoo also operates the 10,000-acre The Wilds in Muskingum County.
“We look at this Zoo, the size that we are, the collection that we are able to provide, and the only way that we are so successful is that relationship we have with the city and the county, especially the taxpayers,” Stalf said. “We’ve done our due diligence to ensure that fiscal responsibility when we’re building and designing facilities, and that’s why we felt that after 30 years, the Zoo is really a legacy and we want to continue that.”