Roughly $10 million in new revenue will pour into Reid Park Zoo every year for the next decade, as a final count of ballots showed that Tucson voters approved two propositions needed to increase the city’s sales tax.
The one-tenth-of-a-cent sales-tax hike to be dedicated to the zoo was in danger of not passing because one of the two propositions was failing after most of the votes were counted Tuesday night. The other proposition held a comfortable lead.
About 10,000 ballots were counted Thursday and with nearly all of the ballots now counted, Proposition 203 — which dealt with increasing the sales tax for 10 years — passed by about 600 votes. The accompanying measure, Proposition 202, which would change the city charter to allow for the tax increase, passed 53 percent to 47 percent.
On Tuesday, Tucson City Council members discussed whether they might have to intervene if Proposition 202 passed and Proposition 203 failed.
A clause contained in Proposition 202 suggested the council could carry out the will of the community even if Proposition 203 was defeated. With both measures now passing, the council no longer needs to decide whether to step in and approve the tax hike.
Revenue for the “Future of Your Zoo” initiative will provide the city between $8 million and $10 million in funding annually to make much-needed repairs to the 50-year-old zoo over the next decade.
Nancy Kluge, president of the Reid Park Zoological Society, was quick to praise the Tucson community for backing the measure on behalf of her members and the animals at the zoo. “We are so excited for our visitors, our animals and Tucson,” she said.
The zoo said in a news release that construction will begin on projects as early as 2018 and will include vital capital projects including the replacement of 75-year-old water and sewer infrastructure as well as several existing animal habitats.
The zoo plans on bringing in marmosets and tamarins — both small monkeys — next year, but the larger focus will be on the zoo’s tigers with a larger habitat planned for them
Director Jason Jacobs said the zoo plans a “world-class exhibit” that will allow it to work on tiger conservation efforts. “My goal is to make (the zoo) the best it can be,” he said.
The additional sales tax — which will be paid by anyone purchasing something inside the city limits — is estimated to cost the average person about 60 cents extra a month.
County election officials estimated there are less than 100 ballots still to be counted, primarily related to signatures not matching, but that is not enough to change the outcome.