Voters to decide if portion of property tax should fund Honolulu Zoo

Voters to decide if portion of property tax should fund Honolulu Zoo
Published: Sep. 26, 2016 at 9:47 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 27, 2016 at 3:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every year more than a half million visitors stroll through the exhibits at the Honolulu Zoo.  Many with no idea the Waikiki attraction has fallen on hard times.

One of the zoo's biggest challenges has been finding a consistent source of funding.  That's just one of the reasons it lost its accreditation back in March hindering its ability to acquire and breed exotic animals.

Now the Caldwell Administration is supporting a charter amendment that would bring in roughly $6 million a year based on recent tax collections.

"Proposal number nine would carve out a half a percent of real property tax revenues and dedicate those to the zoo as a minimum amount that can be budgeted each year," said Roy Amemiya, Honolulu Managing Director.

Right now how much the zoo gets depends on the mayor and city council.  Over the past five years the amount as varied from as low as $5 million to a high of $6.8 million.  If the amendment passes it could cut the zoo budget but the facility would get to keep all the money.

"Currently if money is in the budget and if it's not spent it lapses into the general fund.  This special fund will make sure it stays with the zoo," said Amemiya.

Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi says although she likes the idea of a zoo fund  she has concerns because money for the Affordable Housing Fund and the Clean Water Fund are also taken directly out of property taxes.

"The other funds have this kind of safety valve where if the city really cannot do this at a certain point, if there is an emergency then we do not have to take the money out for that fund during that time. I don't believe that safety valve language is in this charter amendment," said Kobayashi.

Voters will get to decide on the issue when they go to the polls November 8th.

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