August 16, 2011 in City

Commission puts animal shelter levy on November ballot

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke pauses at the end of a tour of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services building on June 11, 2010 in Spokane Valley. Regional officials gathered at the shelter to assess the need for a new facility.
(Full-size photo)

Voters will decide this fall whether to replace the overcrowded, awkwardly located Spokane County animal shelter.

Divided county commissioners decided Tuesday to place a nine-year property tax levy on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Todd Mielke and Al French supported the referendum; Mark Richard opposed it.

The measure, designed to raise up to $15 million, would cost the owner of a $200,000 home a maximum of 97 cents per month. It would be capped at 5.8 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The cost could be less if the city of Spokane decides not to participate in what is intended to be a regional project. Commissioners could reduce the size of the shelter and cut the rate or duration of the levy.

Although Mayor Mary Verner supports the regional approach, a wavering Spokane City Council has yet to take a position. Frustrated county commissioners decided today to give voters a “worst-case scenario” that gets better if Spokane participates.

To some extent, voters will have the power to force the City Council’s hand. Because the levy must be countywide, Spokane taxpayers would help pay it.

If the levy passes, city officials will have to decide whether to take advantage of their constituents’ contribution.

Unlike a bond measure, the levy requires only 50 percent support. Still, it is unlikely to pass without strong support in Spokane.

Currently, the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service serves Spokane Valley, Cheney, Millwood, Liberty Lake and unincorporated portions of the county.

Those areas have a combined population of 247,103. Spokane has 209,100 residents – 44.2 percent of the entire county’s population, which includes several small communities that don’t contract with SCRAPS.

“We hope that, by having a new shelter, we will be able to accept more cities into the coalition,” SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill said.

She said her department offers some services throughout the county, including pet adoptions, dog training, behavioral consultation and education programs.

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