Much as we support Atascadero’s Charles Paddock Zoo, we find it a stretch to expect people living as far away as Nipomo or Grover Beach or California Valley to pay a $20-per-year tax to help fund it.
Yet as reported in Sunday’s Tribune, a countywide property tax assessment is one option being explored by zoo advocates, who are looking at ways to raise $30 million to modernize the aging facility.
We have no doubt that the zoo has fans in every corner of the county who would be willing to donate to the cause. But the zoo is a regional facility — not a countywide one — and we can’t see asking all SLO County homeowners to foot the bill for modernization. That’s a bit like asking taxpayers throughout the county to help fund a performing arts center in Arroyo Grande or a children’s museum in San Luis Obispo.
Wisely, the Central Coast Zoo Society says it will conduct more polling before it goes to voters. If it doesn’t have support throughout the county, it may narrow its focus and limit a ballot measure to those communities that are in favor of the tax.
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That makes sense; $20 per year is not a lot to ask of residents who benefit from the zoo. But a long-term, countywide tax assessment would be a tough sell even in the best of times. In this economy, we fear it would be a lost cause, and we cannot support it.