National conservative group campaigning against Columbus Zoo tax levy

Posted | Contributed by rollergator

Americans for Prosperity is sending out mailings this week urging Franklin County residents to vote “no” on Issue 6, the permanent, 1.25-mill property tax that would raise $32.7 million a year for the zoo. The zoo tax would replace a 0.75-mill levy that expires at the end of 2015 and brings in $18.9 million a year. It would cost homeowners $44 a year per $100,000 of property value. The current levy costs $21 a year.

Read more from The Columbus Dispatch.

I favor user fees whether possible over broad based taxes on arbitrary groups of people. That way people who use the facility/venue/project/improvement pay for it rather than a group of people who may or may not use it (and that group doesn't even include everyone who will use it). And if you use it more, you pay more. Makes sense to me.

That being said, the Columbus Zoo proposed tax wasn't as bad (though looks like it failed by a large margin) as the sin tax extension that Cleveland just renewed this week making just smokers and drinkers in Cuyahoga County pay for improvements to the city's pro sports venues.

mlnem4s's avatar

Every time I would drive by the Columbus Zoo all I could think was how awesome would it be if it became a Busch Gardens park? Columbus is the only place in Ohio were the economy continues to grow and people WANT to move too so the revenue growth potential there is huge, especially considering the already do 2 million in attendance and the water park is PACKED in the summer.

rollergator's avatar

Much like our discussion of the minimum wage, there is a sense of community about zoos. For outsiders to come in and claim that it will double your property taxes is disingenuous at would appromximately double the zoo levy on your property taxes, NOT your overall property tax burden. Misleading ads from national groups about a local issue....not a good look.

I think there is a sense of community about a lot of things. But I don't think that necessarily means communities should be forced to pay for them. And typically for these types of projects, the community benefits are overstated and the costs are understated.

I think that misleading ads from any group or person are not good looks. Doesn't matter if they are local or outside. Or which side of the issue they are supporting (or whether I agree with or oppose the ultimate objective). I seem to recall garbage on both sides of the SB-5 issue in Ohio with outside groups contributing to it.

Americans for Prosperity is one of the Koch brothers funded, non grass-roots organizations. Expecting any of their ads to be fact based is the same as wishing for the arrival of Santa Claus.

Jeff's avatar

It's idealistic bull****. Seriously, a couple of $20 bills to fund one of the things about Ohio that doesn't suck? It wouldn't even be on the radar of things I would worry about. Having stuff like that in your area adds value, and sits squarely in the abstract category that makes it a "nice place to live."

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Lord Gonchar's avatar

First off, I still think the system of levies Ohio uses is stupid.

Secondly, I've always felt that presenting the costs of these in terms of $100,000 was sort of disingenuous. I mean, the median home price is closer to $200,000.

Even this article uses the wording in a way that makes the cost seem less than it is - "The current levy costs $21 a year."

No it doesn't. It costs $21 a year per $100,000 of property value. If you live in a $250,000 home it currently costs $52 and it will go up to $110. I'm not suggesting that's a lot of money or that people shouldn't pay for the zoo. Just showing how the presentation of the cost and the actual cost are a little detached.

Feels like sometimes - especially in my neck of the woods - levies are presented with an emphasis on that number as a way to sell the levy to people as lower cost that it actually will be. Might just be me.

/end personal rant

Last edited by Lord Gonchar,
rollergator's avatar

Do you all get "homestead exemptions" in Ohio?

Because here when they say "assessed value" - it understates the appraisal value by quite a bit....provided you live in the home. Rental homes need not apply...

Lord Gonchar's avatar

The current assessed total of our property is $6000 less than we paid for it in 2008. And that changed in 2010. Prior to that it was almost exactly the same number.

For us, the assessed and appraised values of our home has always been pretty close. Literally within 5%.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar,
Jeff's avatar

As is the case anywhere else in the state, the home values are only higher out in the suburbs. The people they're targeting with this message are probably not people in $250k houses.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Well, on the auditor's website here in Fairfield county, it says the assessed rate is 35% of the home's appraised value.

That said, the numbers given already account for this when they say "$21 per 100k." (So the numbers given are correct, $21 for every $100k in appraised value.)

Back in the discussion with the woman seeking a refund of the seasons pass cost for her husband who died before he could use it, my view was I wouldn't personally worry about that but I wouldn't fault someone else who thought it was substantial enough to pursue. Similarly, I won't fault anyone who votes against a tax increase because their financial circumstances (even if its $20 or $40).

Since the great recession, a lot of people have lost jobs, taken jobs with lower pay, had wages/hours reduced and faced increased costs for various things. As a result they have had to tighten their financial belts. And what we have seen in many cases (at least in northeast Ohio) are voters telling government that they expect government to tighten its fiscal belt before coming to voters to ask for more tax revenues. Add in boomers retiring en masse on fixed incomes and I think you will see more people objecting to even small tax increases. Most new tax ballot measures have failed in recent years (and often times in places that historically had passed new taxes willingly in the past). Whether right or wrong, that is the environment in which we currently live. There are some school boards that to date have failed to understand that reality.

In the minimum wage discussion, the public good was deemed to be the will of the people. Does that apply when 70% of the voters turn down a tax measure or only when the will of the people is consistent with what you like? :)

There are a lot of things that make places nice places to live. Doesn't mean they should all be funded with public dollars. I still think having folks who directly benefit/use those "nice things" pay for them makes the most sense (at least in certain cases -- zoos and sports facilities included). If that is idealistic BS, so be it. Now, I don't campaign against general taxes or for user fees or donate to causes that do either. I did vote against the sin tax extension in Cuyahoga County on Tuesday even though I frequent the city's sports venues and don't smoke and rarely drink.

Deceptive political ads? Are there any that aren't deceptive? The notion that any group, side or party has a monopoly on deceptive ads seems incredibly naïve to me. Though in my experience, people tend to ignore the deception (or may even believe its true) when they agree with the ultimate message. And that isn't by accident. Political ads are aimed at particular groups of people.

Last edited by GoBucks89,
ApolloAndy's avatar

The public good isn't always the will of the people. In fact, in the cases of the tragedy of the commons and the prisoner's dilemma, it is exactly opposite the will of the people (individually).

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Personally, I think the Zoo levy failed not so much because of some deceptive advertising, but because of the plans they had for the money. They floated a proposal to build a new facility downtown, and I suspect it gave the impression that they really didn't know what they were going to do with the money.
In fact, the new levy would not have been much of an increase at all once the current levy expires, and there would only be one year of overlap. As levies go, this one was downright puny, compared to, say, anything any school district has asked for in the last 30 years...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

I live in Columbus, and it's not that everyone here isn't proud of our nation's #1 rated zoo, because we are, and it's not that the amount asked for was huge, because it wasn't. But what I kept hearing over and over around here was something like "that durned zoo- always got their hand out." It does seem like zoo levies happen around here with quite frequently.

I was shocked, though, to see how the levy lost by such a landslide.

LostKause's avatar

What's wrong with getting the money from the people who are visiting the zoo instead of the people who live near the zoo? I don't see Kings Island asking the people of Mason, OH to help them buy a new shiny roller coaster, the amount that they have to pay dependent on how much their house is worth. That's sounds just plain goofy.

What about other businesses? I want to build a waterpark in my backyard, so I need everyone who owns a house to help me pay for it, the amount dependent on how much your house is worth. You will be required by law to pay me the money.

People are already taxed to death. Zoos are nice. Maybe they can try to win the money from Pepsi.

I can't cite any specific examples off the top of my head, but I think its common for the large multi-million dollar pro sports venues to be built at least partially with tax dollars, despite that just about everything that happens in the venue is for profit.

I think that was another issue in the defeat. The tax would apply only to Franklin county residents, while the zoo is actually in the county to the north. Maybe that was the point of the "downtown mini zoo" which really sounded like a dumb idea to me from the start.

Jeff's avatar

Zoos are often part of park districts. That's the case in Cleveland, and I would suggest that paying for the Cleveland Metropark system is absolutely worth it. I don't think people there realize how great that park system really is. As such, just because it's an "attraction" doesn't mean it can't fit neatly into that governmental unit.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

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