Zoo officials are left wondering what's next after Franklin County voters rejected the zoo's levy request Tuesday by 70-percent.
The levy would have paid for new and renovated exhibits, on-grounds transportation, a zoo hospital update, new security and an amphitheater.
The levy also would have covered the bulk of the cost for a downtown satellite zoo.
“I was disappointed,” zoo member Jessica Beck said when asked about her reaction to the levy’s failure.
The Canal Winchester resident says she voted for the levy Tuesday because she was hoping for a campus closer to home.
"I think it would be awesome to have an extra zoo so we could go downtown and be closer,” Beck said.
Jennifer Kingsley is another zoo regular.
The Delaware County resident says she believes the downtown proposal hurt the levy.
"I think that that helped it fail,” Kingsley said. “There was so much push-back with other interests. It was really disappointing."
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is one group that provided opposition to the levy by distributing flyers and going door-to-door.
“Last night’s vote on Issue 6 represents a victory for all Franklin County property owners,” AFP Ohio Director Eli Miller said. “We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to oppose tax increases in Franklin County and across the state.”
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Board Chair Phil Pikelny says it is too early to tell if the proposed downtown campus caused voters to reject the levy.
"If we privately funded that downtown exhibit, would that have made a difference? I don't know,” Pikelny said.
Pikelny is also an executive of The Dispatch Printing Company, which is the parent company of 10TV.
Pikelny says before the zoo board proposes another levy, he wants to talk with some of the groups who voiced opposition to this one.
"I really would like to embrace those groups,” Pikelny said. “Embrace the folks who voted against the zoo levy and really try to figure out together, you know, just help us understand what are those things that if we over-reached, what was it?"
Meanwhile, zoo members like Beck will be hoping any future levy passes.
"They definitely deserve to expand and they don't ask for a levy all the time so why not help them out once in a while,” Beck said.
The zoo board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 14th.
"Last night’s vote on Issue 6 represents a victory for all Franklin County property owners. We said all along that Franklin County voters should decide this issue based on its merits and we believe they did. We are pleased voters rejected this proposed permanent tax increase and are proud that our Ohio based activists were able to knock on thousands of doors and make thousands of phone calls to make sure voters could make an educated decision on the zoo tax levy. We focus on policy rather than politics, and we will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to oppose tax increases in Franklin County and across the state." - Eli Miller, Ohio Director of Americans For Prosperity