The frustration of overseeing an animal shelter, and who pays

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Monday evening, County Mayor Leon Humphrey in frustration resigned as oversight manager of the Carter County Animal Shelter. That frustration was expressed in a STAR column Sunday, in which the mayor publicly took aim at his counterpart, Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander and the city’s refusal to come across with an equal amount of funds for the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter.
Funding for the animal shelter has proven to be a contentious item between the city and county ever since the County Mayor earlier this year requested $200,000 from the city — equal to the amount the county budgeted — for the shelter. The city refused the request, only approving $100,000 for the shelter.
Earlier, the County Mayor chastised the editorial writer of the STAR for an opinion piece which endorsed the city’s share of $100,000 for the animal shelter as being fair. We stand by that editorial on the premise that city taxpayers are also county residents and pay both city and county taxes. City taxpayers are already paying once to fund the animal shelter with their county taxes. To pay again with their city taxes would result in their bearing the burden for the expense and operation of the animal shelter.
We have since done some research and found that city property owners pay almost one-third of county taxes collected. We are not opposed to supporting the animal shelter, but we are opposed to double dipping out of the same pocket.
The city is basing its animal shelter appropriation on the population numbers. There are approximately 14,176 residents in the city as opposed to 56,886 county residents, which means equal appropriations of $200,000 from the city and county would mean city taxpayers are paying 5 times more per capita for the animal shelter than county residents. Even at the $100,000 appropriation, city residents are paying 2.3 times more than county residents.
Again, we are not opposed to the animal shelter, just of the double-dipping from the pockets of city residents.
We recall that a few years ago, the idea of a new animal shelter was birthed when the management of the STAR met with members of the Carter County Humane Society and other interested individuals to begin a campaign to garner support for a new shelter. From the beginning the Carter County Humane Society was involved, and before that answered and responded to many calls regarding abused and stray animals. They were the go-to group at that time. Volunteers over the years have played an important part in the animal shelter’s operation, and should be able to do so again under proper supervision.
Both, the city and county rely primarily on real estate tax revenue to support their operations so taxes are collected and paid to both Carter County and the City of Elizabethton. When you pay your property tax bill, the money you are spending goes to a number of important programs. Road construction and maintenance and local government staff salaries within the community are all things that are paid for with your tax dollars. Municipal employees, such as police, firemen and the local public works department, are also paid through your property taxes.
Traffic and street lights, sidewalks, recreational trails, and the library are all paid for with taxes the City of Elizabethton collects each year. Your property taxes — a large percentage — goes to education in both the city and county.
In the City of Elizabethton, your taxes help pay for garbage pickup, along with brush pickup and the disposal of larger household items.
Most of the general fund property tax that city residents pay to the county is used to fund services the county provides to all county residents, such as the public schools, health and human services, police protection, etc.
The property tax has been and continues to be the number one revenue source used to finance local government activity in Elizabethton and Carter County, and it dominates most discussions of local government finance. Taxes and what we fund with them will always be a source of contention and frustration.
As we said before, city taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay more of their tax dollars than county residents do to keep the animal shelter operating. It’s not an us against them thing, it’s just playing fair.

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