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County advances on animal control

Study shows low costs despite subsidy

County commissioners began coaxing the final pieces of regional animal-control jigsaw puzzle into place Tuesday.

“I’m headed toward being favorable,” Commissioner Mark Richard said of a plan that would give the city of Spokane a financial incentive to join a regional operation in new quarters.

Voters will have the last word. They’ll decide in the Nov. 8 general election whether to approve a property tax levy to acquire and renovate a building big enough to allow Spokane to join the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service coalition.

Two weeks ago, Richard voted against presenting the levy. He objected to the city’s insistence on paying no more than it does now, which was expected to soak up nearly all of the savings a regional system would provide.

On Tuesday, though, a staff report showed there would be enough economy of scale for everyone to save money.

Estimates presented to commissioners Tuesday show Spokane County and existing SCRAPS customers would still pay $115,620 less, even if Spokane doesn’t pay its full share.

SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill cautioned that Spokane’s share is hard to predict because SCRAPS and SpokAnimal have different methods of tracking activities.

A study that attempted to reconcile the apples-and-oranges data concluded that, based on this year’s rates, the county would save an estimated $57,060; Spokane Valley, $53,370; Millwood, $1,020; Cheney, $2,291; and Liberty Lake, $1,877.

The Spokane City Council agreed Monday to join SCRAPS on condition that the city’s current general-fund cost for animal control from SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. would increase only for inflation for nine years.

The city pays $561,492 now, but switching to SCRAPS would raise the cost to $753,236 without the proposed subsidy.

Commissioners Todd Mielke and Al French agreed with Richard that Spokane eventually should pay its full share. Meanwhile, Hill said, she hopes to recoup some of the subsidy through more aggressive collection of pet license fees. License income would go directly to SCRAPS.

Mielke said the City Council’s agreement Monday to sell the system a warehouse at 1001 N. Havana St. will cut a third off the cost of a new shelter.

Officials say the current shelter, at 2521 N. Flora Road, is poorly located, too small for current needs and impossible to expand because it is between railroad tracks and a gravel pit.

Previously, without assurance that the Spokane-owned building would be available, commissioners decided to ask voters for $15 million – enough money to build a new structure. Renovating the city-owned warehouse is expected to cost about $10 million.

Commissioners planned to confer with Spokane Valley officials today before striking a deal with Spokane, but they declared themselves generally in concurrence.

Spokane participation in the shelter project would allow commissioners to trim the proposed countywide property tax levy or shorten its duration. Mielke noted the measure was written with flexibility to allow either possibility – or both.

The levy, which requires only a simple majority to pass, would be capped at 5.8 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for nine years. At the maximum rate and term, the levy would raise an estimated $15 million and cost the owner of a $200,000 home 97 cents a month.

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