Voter rejection of new taxes last month to pay for a regional animal control system sent Spokane city leaders back to their old standby.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a two-year contract to pay the nonprofit SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. about $753,000 a year to continue handling animal control services within city limits. The contract amount is an increase of about 3.4 percent from what the city is paying this year. SpokAnimal will continue to return a portion of dog and cat license fees to the city – about $200,000 each year.
Most council members, Mayor Mary Verner and Mayor-elect David Condon supported the proposed county tax to build a new countywide animal shelter that would have allowed the city to join a regional system and end its relationship with SpokAnimal. Officials at SpokAnimal had informed the city a few years ago that it no longer wanted the contract but later changed their mind and campaigned against the countywide shelter proposal.
City Councilman Steve Corker, like most council members, said that without the ability to join the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Agency, a contract with SpokAnimal is the city’s only choice. About 56 percent of voters rejected the tax plan, which would have cost 5.8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for a maximum of nine years
“I still think that a countywide approach is the best option,” Corker said. “But I don’t think the voters are prepared to pass any bond in this economy.”
Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she likes that the contract allows each party to end it with a year’s notice because it gives the incoming Condon a chance to help determine the future of animal control.
When the county offered a long-term deal to join the county’s animal control system in preparation for the ballot proposal, SpokAnimal offered its own.
Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal, said SpokAnimal’s board accepts the shorter deal but will work to have a 10-year deal in place when the new two-year contract expires.
“We’re really glad to have this contract finished prior to the end of the year,” she said.
City Councilman Bob Apple, who opposed the county tax proposal, said the city should have worked toward having a 10-year deal in place starting next year.
“That’s what the people directed when they turned down the SCRAPS (county) proposal,” Apple said.