ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – After several motions and failures on the Rabies and Animal Control portion of the county’s general fund, Carter County commissioners passed their 2022 budget.
The final budget decreased the amount of funding to Rabies and Animal Control, which includes the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter and animal control, by $71,163.88.
The commission also voted to decrease the county’s property tax rate to $2.03 from $2.47. That’s because of property reassessments that increased property values. The commission said some residents could see a tax increase because values increased.
All other parts of the budget passed with little discussion, but it required four different proposals before the commission could settle on a Rabies and Animal Control budget.
The initial proposal included $225,000 from Carter County and $125,000 from the City of Elizabethton, but that left over $120,000 unaccounted for from the original $492,603.88 animal shelter budget.
Commissioners then proposed changing Carter County’s contribution from $228,600, to $240,000 before settling on $250,000.
Commissioner Gary Bailey was critical of increasing the county’s contribution because he thought the city should pay more.
“Why should we as the county be paying 75 percent of this and the city paying 25 percent when 40 something percent of the calls are coming from the city?,” Bailey asked during discussions.
The passed budget includes $250,000 from Carter County, $125,000 from the City of Elizabethton, and an estimated $46,400 in donations and other contributions. Several commissioners mentioned a possibility for additional funds for the shelter from the City.
Before the meeting, about 15 individuals from the Friends of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter picketed outside the Carter County Courthouse. They held signs that requested the commission pass the budget as is and move away from plans to make the animal shelter a 501(c)3 non-profit.
John Bland has supported the shelter for many years. He said budget cuts are something that is considered by the commission almost every year. He viewed the previous decision to move the shelter to a 501(c)3 as an attempt to close the shelter.
“When they say, we don’t want to close the shelter, we just want to convert to a 501(c)3, they know that’s a backdoor approach to closing the shelter,” Bland said.
Bland said it would be impossible for the shelter to support itself on its own because the fundraising situation is so different in Carter County than in other localities with nonprofit shelters, like in Johnson City.
He said it took him eight years to raise any significant amount of money.
“I raised over $100,000 and gave that to the construction of the new animal shelter,” Bland said. “For this commission to say we want to convert this to a 501(c)3 and support yourself, it will not happen.”
The $71,000 cut could impact the shelter’s ability to provide adequate animal control for the county, according to Shelter Director Shannon Posada.
“$70,000 is about where our animal control cost was with one full-time and one-part time. One full-time cannot, out of 40 hours a week, run the entire Carter County area,” Posada said.
Previously, animal control was handled under the Carter County Sheriff’s Office. That office’s budget kept the same amount of money allocated to purchase a new vehicle.
Posada said she will not be sure what services get cut from the shelter’s budget until an upcoming Carter County Animal Shelter Board meeting.
“There’s services that are going to have to be cut,” Posada said. “Is that cutting our employees, animal control, intake numbers? That all depends on our board meeting.”
Posada said this was the lowest budget the shelter had submitted in three years.