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County commissioners plan further discussions regarding a timeline on a new animal shelter and the funding to pay for it, including animal privilege fees.
The discussion was prompted last week during the board’s public hearing held about the 2018-19 county budget. Commissioner Chris Hill proposed that $85,000 be allotted to the new animal shelter’s capital reserve fund, an increase by $15,000 from the previous year.
Hill said the fees collected this past fiscal year increased, so more of that money should be saved for shelter construction.
Two years ago, commissioners voted to reserve funds for a new animal shelter. The capital reserve resolution, which they passed unanimously, maintains that at least $60,000 of the animal fees will be put aside each year. Last year, commissioners approved $70,000 to be placed in the fund.
So far, there is $260,000 in the new animal shelter fund, but it will cost much more for the project. Construction for a new animal shelter is slated to cost at least $800,000, according to previous reports.
Nearly $164,000 in fees was collected in 2017, compared to roughly $145,000 in 2016, according to budget figures. The remaining fees collected go toward the current animal shelter operations.
‘AGGRESSIVE AND STEADY’
Further discussion ensued after Hill’s request to the board. Commissioner Roger Lucas said he still maintains commissioners should put the entire amount of fees collected into the capital reserve fund to get the animal shelter built.
“Then discuss later on what we are going to do with that fee and where the funding is going to go beyond that,” Lucas added. “Once you build the shelter, it’s got to be maintained.”
Lucas also suggested they look at the financials to see how the shelter can be built on a quicker timetable.
“I would really love to see that impact pick up and get this thing behind us,” Lucas said. “I think it needs to be something aggressive and steady. I’ve always been an advocate that the fee was supposed to go toward the animal shelter to start with.”
Commissioner Bill Blackman said the way they were going at it now, it would take board members “forever to get the money to build the shelter.”
While Hill proposed the amendment to the 2018-19 budget to increase the fee allotment by $15,000, commissioners decided to hold off until further discussion. Commissioners can amend the budget at any time and could potentially approve Hill’s suggestion.
Commissioner Sherry Lucas wasn’t on the board when the animal fee was implemented. She said she wanted more details and information so commissioners could revisit the matter soon.
Roger Lucas and Hill said they were OK with waiting to revisit the topic. Commissioners suggested the animal enforcement committee meet as well. A date for that meeting has not been announced.
Commissioners did say they believe they’ve made more headway regarding the new shelter and hope to continue that momentum.
Chairman Rob Boyette said it was a good topic to address so they can take a closer look at the design and a potential increase in the construction timetable.
PET FEE HISTORY
A decade ago, county commissioners voted to assess pet owners a yearly animal registration fee, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2009.
During the meeting where the fees were approved, then-Sheriff Wayne Gay told commissioners the fee would be “applied toward a new shelter and improvements in the animal control program,” according to the official minutes from the 2008 meeting. But animal advocates contend it was their understanding that the entirety of the fees collected would and should go toward building a new shelter.
“I know that I was presented an animal fee for the sole intent and purpose of these monies going to build a new shelter, and that is what I voted for,” Commissioner Roger Lucas wrote in a summer 2012 email to then-County Manager Ellis Williford.