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Toledo Zoo asks for less money from Lucas County taxpayers

One of the issues on this year's ballot requests less public funding for the Toledo Zoo.
Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 6:12 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Lucas County voters will see the Toledo Zoo on their ballot next week, but this ask will be different as zoo officials request less money from voters. Zoo officials say that over the years their revenue has increased so much from other sources that they want to give taxpayers a break.

When the Toledo Zoo started asking for taxpayer money back in the 1980s the operating levy paid for about 80% of the operation. These days that levy pays for less than 16%.

“We don’t believe nonprofit means nonbusiness. We need to run a strong business,” said Toledo Zoo CEO Jeff Sailer.

Sailer says that’s why the zoo is asking for a decreased millage in the levy on Tuesday. The 5-year levy generates about $5 million annually and pays for things utilities, staff, and animal care.

But these days the zoo has many different avenues to generate money so they feel they don’t need as much from the public as in years past. For example, zoo officials tell 13abc that 40% of memberships and admission come from Michigan

“If we can continue to reduce our reliance on Lucas County, that’s what we’re going to try and do,” said Sailer.

These dollars will also help keep Mondays free for Lucas County residents and provide free programming to schools, so that value remains as zoo officials continue to try and create experiences and make this more than just a local destination.

“We need to be good stewards of the money that we’ve received from Lucas County. We’re incredibly thankful for the gracious support over the years but there’s a lot of need here and if we don’t need as much money I think it’s right to give some back,” said Sailer.

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