City should seek additional library funds in exchange for shelter funds

Published 9:05 am Monday, April 24, 2017

The county is requesting a sizeable chunk of change from the City of Elizabethton for the Carter County Animal Shelter — over $200,000. Many city homeowners, when looking at the payment, should City Council approve it, are thinking double taxation.

Municipal property owners pay taxes to both the municipal and county governments for services. They should not have to use their city taxes to pay for the animal shelter, especially when the budget is prepared by the county mayor’s office with little or no input from city officials.

Double taxation has long been a matter of contention between city and county government.

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The animal shelter is just one joint venture Elizabethton residents may also pay twice in services funded by the city and county. Although a contract between the city and county for the operational costs at the shelter is put at “50-50,” city taxpayers are absorbing more of a blow paying roughly $10 per person for the shelter (paying both city and county taxes) while county-only residents are paying roughly $2.50 per person for the shelter.

Should the city decide to fund half of the animal shelter’s budget, perhaps it should be contingent on an agreement that the county pay its fair share to the city for use of the library and city parks.

For the 2016-17 fiscal year, the Elizabethton-Carter County Library received $60,000 from Carter County and $534,000 from the City of Elizabethton. While the county’s contribution equaled only around 10 percent of the local funding, about 75 percent of the library’s patrons live outside the city limits. Library Director Renita Barksdale has requested the county double its funding.

In another area, city park and rec facilities are mostly funded by the city, but at least 63 percent of the people using them are persons living outside the city.

Elizabethton city taxpayers are subsidizing library services as well as park and rec facilities for county residents. By far, Carter County should be paying much, much more.

Books, like dogs and cats, don’t generate revenue, but both the library and animal shelter are vital services that must be supported and funded.

The county and city need to sit down and negotiate not only on the animal shelter funds, but the county becoming a supporting player in the daily life of the library and paying its fair share. Both the city and county need to evaluate the services each provide and identify those areas where there is a duplication of efforts or expense and then develop a better way to provide delivery and funding of governmental services to eliminate the impact of “double tax” for city taxpayers.