Charter amendment: Voters decide if portion of property tax used for Honolulu Zoo expenses

honolulu zoo

We’ve received a number of calls and emails from viewers asking us to explain the Honolulu proposed charter amendments on this year’s ballot.

There are 20 questions that voters will have to answer yes or no. (Click here to view the full list.)

We’ve already discussed the charter amendment on term limits. This time, we’re breaking down proposed charter amendment No. 9: Should a Honolulu Zoo Fund be established and funded by a minimum of one-half of one percent of estimated annual real property taxes to pay for Honolulu Zoo expenses to assist the Honolulu Zoo in regaining its accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums?

This is not a new tax — voters will decide if a portion of property tax revenues will be used for a Honolulu Zoo fund to operate, repair and make improvements on the popular venue.

This proposed charter amendment was added to the ballot after the Honolulu Zoo was denied its application for re-accreditation back in March over concerns with consistent funding.

Zoo director Dr. Baird Fleming said this will help establish a baseline of needed funding.

So a “yes” vote for this charter amendment would mean that a minimum of one half of one percent of estimated annual real property tax revenues would be deposited every year in the Honolulu Zoo fund. The fund could be used to pay for more animals — including shipping, insurance, and travel — and it would also pay for salaries for employees and debt service owed for capital improvements.

A “no” vote would not establish a fund for the zoo.

“The way that we are funded is actually composed of two different products,” Fleming said. “Part of it is the general fund, and that pays for our debt service, our case and benefits, and then the operating component is actually paid for by special funds which go through the Dept. of Enterprise Services.”

If voters approve this charter amendment, it would take effect on July 1, 2017. Any money left over in the fund at the end of the fiscal year would accumulate from year to year.

“That will give us the ability, through this amendment, to strengthen those asks and give a stronger call to citizens to come support your zoo in some new and better ways,” said David Earles of the Honolulu Zoo Society.

Now, if the zoo does not become accredited by 2023, the fund would be repealed and the balance would be transferred to the general fund.

Fleming says the zoo can apply for accreditation again in March 2017, but he plans to wait until relationships improve between the zoo, the society and the city.

honolulu-zoo-2016

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