Lafayette council votes to increase staff at animal shelter _lowres

aca shelter bt Advocate Staff Photo by Bryan Tuck. Photo shot on 4/07/09. The Lafayette Parish Animal Shelter on Pont des Mouton Road.

Lafayette’s animal shelter is set to more than double the number of caretakers from two to five under funding approved this week by the City-Parish Council.

The council on Tuesday approved $133,051 in annual salaries and benefits for three new employees to feed and care for dogs, cats, horses and other animals at the shelter.

“There is always a need,” said Lafayette Animal Control Supervisor Virginia Lee. “... We do the best with what we have.”

City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who sponsored the measure to fund the new positions, said he was responding to a plea for help from Animal Control staff and volunteers at city-parish budget hearings last year.

The move comes as Lafayette voters are set to decide in March on a tax measure that could pump more money into city-parish government’s Animal Control Center, which operates the animal shelter and employs the animal control officers who respond to complaints throughout the parish.

The tax proposal would not raise taxes but rather combine existing property taxes for the public health unit and mosquito control into a single property tax and add a provision that the funds also could be used for animal control.

The Lafayette animal shelter and related animal control operations cost the city-parish government more than $1 million a year. The money is now pulled from other areas of the budget because there is no separate tax to support animal control.

At the same time, existing property taxes for mosquito control and public health generate millions of dollars more than needed, and the money sits in a savings account because the property tax revenue is legally dedicated to those services and cannot be used for anything else.

Boudreaux said passage of the tax would generate more than enough money to pay for the three additional positions at the animal shelter, but he will push to maintain funding for the new caretakers regardless of the outcome in March.

If the tax measure passes, city-parish government could collect up to 3.56 mills for the consolidated tax, which would bring in an estimated $6.7 million a year, said City-Parish Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups.

That figure could cover existing expenses for the public health unit and mosquito control, plus more than $2 million that could be used for beefing up those two services and enhancing animal control.

“We hope that this happens, because that’s the only way for this department to progress,” Lee said.