Franklin County Voters Will Decide Zoo Levy In May

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Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien snaps photo of Columbus Zoo snow leopard at Tuesday's County Commission meeting. Commissioners voted to place a permanent zoo tax levy on the May 6th ballot.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU News)
Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien snaps photo of Columbus Zoo snow leopard at Tuesday's County Commission meeting. Commissioners voted to place a permanent zoo tax levy on the May 6th ballot.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU News)

Franklin County voters will be asked in May to approve a 1.25 mil levy for the Columbus Zoo. Franklin County commissioners voted to place a permanent tax levy on spring ballot.

After getting a close-up look at a snow leopard and a bearcat, courtesy of zoo officials, county commissioners voted unanimously to support the zoo tax levy.

The proposed levy represents a 66 percent increase over the current zoo tax. Zoo chief executive Tom Stalf says the public funds will help pay for a satellite zoo on the downtown riverfront. Fifteen percent would pay for current operations to keep animals healthy and the expanded exhibits visitor friendly.

“Years ago, 30, 40 years ago you would put an animal in a cage. Now we represent the region. We talk about the animal, the habitat and the culture around them,” Stalf said.

Voters will likely see a lot of Jack Hanna too, the popular director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo. Hanna says he will be actively involved in the levy campaign.

“My dream some day is to have the giant pandas, have them back. Can you imagine? I can’t get bigfoot right now but I’m working on that too.”

If passed, property owners would pay $44 on $100,000 in property value. The proposed permanent levy would replace an existing levy that expires at the end of 2015.

A portion of the levy would help fund the planned downtown zoo attraction that’s part of a new Scioto riverfront development.

Listen to WOSU Tom Borgerding’s interview with Zoo executive Tom Stalf.

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