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La Liga de Las Americas

The Toledo Zoo Levies: Issues 3 and 4

Two levies appear on the May 2 ballot for Lucas County voters concerning the Toledo Zoo. Issue 3 is a 10-year capital improvement levy of 1.0 mill that covers the costs of renovations for the existing campus but does not add any major new exhibits.

Issue 4 is a five-year operating levy of .85 mill that would replace the existing levy of .7 mill.

The capital improvement levy is a replacement levy for one of the same millage that expired in December 2005. If approved by voters, the new levy will take effect in January 2007. The capital levy will be used, according to Dr. Anne Baker, recently appointed executive director of the zoo, for the “renovation of existing exhibits, repairs to the [zoo’s] infrastructure, to improve and maintain existing facilities and for a new children’s zoo.”

The children’s zoo will not be replaced, said Dr. Baker, but will be moved to a new location and placed under roofing so that it is available to visitors year-round.

The operating levy’s increase, said Dr. Baker, comes to about $.62 a month on a home valued at $100,000, or “less than the price of a soft drink.” The operating levy provides about 30 percent of the zoo’s budget.

In 1982, Dr. Baker noted, prior to the management of the zoo passing from the hands of the county government to the Toledo Zoological Society Foundation, operating levies provided 70 percent of the budget, the remaining 30 percent came from earned revenues. Those percentages have been reversed and “we are offering more at a lower percentage” to the taxpayers, said Dr. Baker.

The Toledo Zoo has had its share of controversy over the last several years. Staff upheaval, accusations of profligate personal spending on the part of management and charges that the organization was not committed to diversity in either its employment or purchasing practices have caused the zoo to refocus its attention on repairing the damage to its reputation.

The zoo recently underwent an extensive examination of its diversity issues and structured a plan, with considerable input from leaders of Toledo’s minority community, to improve diversity in its hiring and purchasing practices.

The Board of Directors committed the zoo to “engage in a diversity initiative to help create an environment of inclusion and appreciation for all employees and visitors regardless of their background” and also to include “community and supplier diversity as well as others.”





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