The Columbus Action Network ("CAN") urges Franklin County residents to vote "against" Issue 6, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's proposed 1.5 mill continuing property tax levy. Issue 6 proposes to more than double the Franklin County property tax dollars directed toward the Zoo, and to make the levy permanent, where in the past levies had to be renewed every ten years. The CAN opposes this request for several reasons: 1) Any publicly funded entity seeking to double its public funding should have its proposal looked on with great skepticism, and such is the case here with the zoo's 110% proposed increase. We see no compelling reason for a doubling of the zoo's property tax collected from Franklin County residents. Quite simply, a zoo is not an essential element of the county, and our essential levy-funded human services to our most vulnerable residents - public schools, public transit, child protective services, mental health, addiction services, developmental disability services, and senior services - are a far higher priority for scarce taxpayer dollars than is the Zoo. 2) More than $65 million of the Zoo tax increase would go to fund a proposed downtown zoo. Such a zoo would be an amenity -- but certainly not a necessity for the public health and welfare. If there is a market demand for a much smaller downtown zoo, then it can, and should, be privately financed. Half of the zoos in America do not receive public support, and certainly, in Columbus - which already has the highest property tax rates of major cities -- a new zoo to supplement our already very highly regarded zoo should not be publicly funded. 3) The Columbus Zoo is actually in Delaware County. Since 1985, Franklin County residents have paid property taxes to support the Zoo at its location in another county, but Delaware County residents have not paid such property taxes for the Zoo in that county. Any proposed expansion of this size should have corrected that imbalance and required Delaware County residents to contribute to paying the costs of the Zoo in their county. Further, the Zoo has increased its public funding from $0 in 1985 to the proposed $34 million a year should the levy pass. Nonessential operations like a Zoo should be looking to reduce their reliance on taxpayers -- not increase it. And if they want to increase it, they should certainly be looking to residents of other counties that benefit to share the costs: Franklin County residents have been very generous in the past to fully subsidize this regional attraction, but should not be saddled into the future carrying 100% of the tax load of a regional zoo. Further, the Zoo's proposal for a new continuing (permanent) levy, instead of a renewal of the existing levy, means the state of Ohio's 12.5% rollback will be eliminated forever, again dumping all the load of this levy onto Franklin County taxpayers instead of spreading even a portion of it across a broader base of taxpayers. 4) Due to a change in state law that the Zoo lobbied for last summer, the Zoo is able to put a permanent levy request on the ballot, instead of the 10-year maximum levy terms allowed under past law. The effect of this would be to undemocratically remove the Zoo forever from accountability to the voters. However, the Zoo is simply not that important to be removed forever from public scrutiny, and such a proposal should not be proposed in a primary election when fewer citizens are at the polls. When public education, public transportation, mental health, addiction services, child protective services and senior services all must come back to the voters periodically for renewal, there is no justification for the Zoo to avoid that periodic accountability. Indeed, Franklin County Children's Services levy expires this year, and it will be on the ballot for renewal in November. Further, Columbus City Schools past levy funds are being spent down and a Columbus public school levy is widely expected to be on the ballot in November. Finally, COTA will be seeking a renewal of a portion of its sales tax levy in 2016. The Zoo can, and should, wait its turn on the ballot, and not jump in front of these critical community-wide and human services levies. Voting to increase our neighbors' property tax is something that should be done rationally, and not as a result of sentimental response to cute animals, like Punky the penguin, featured in pro-levy advertising. We remind voters that a "no" vote on Issue 6 does not stop funding for the Zoo, whose current 10-year levy expires in a year and a half - at the end of 2015. A "no" vote will allow the Zoo an additional 3 elections to right-size its levy request, and to maintain accountability to the public that funds it by requesting no more than a 10-year levy. Voters have a responsibility to each other to ensure public dollars are spent wisely and according to community priorities. Issue 6 does not accomplish these ends, and should be defeated by the voters so the Zoo can come back with a reasonable 10-year levy request focused on improvements to existing facilities in 2015.