GONZALES — Ascension Parish voters will be asked at the end of the year to consider a 1-mill property tax to finance animal shelter and animal control services for the next 10 years.
If approved by voters on Dec. 8, the new tax would generate $1.2 million annually, fund all shelter and animal control operations and finance new debt for a new $2.5 million shelter to replace the parish’s nearly 20-year-old facility near Sorrento, backers said Thursday.
The new building for the shelter, now known as CARA’s House, would bring both sides of Ascension’s animal control and shelter program under one new roof, supporters said.
The volunteer leaders of Companion Animal Rescue of Ascension, the nonprofit that runs CARA’s House animal shelter under contract with the parish, came to the Parish Council meeting Thursday to ask the council to put the tax measure on the ballot.
GONZALES — With the tie-breaking vote cast by a committee chairwoman Tuesday night, the volunteers who manage CARA’s House, the Ascension Pari…
In October, the council had agreed to a $150,000, or 75 percent, funding increase from the general fund to continue operations at the shelter just two years into nonprofit’s initial deal with Ascension to run the shelter. The parish also funds and operates animal control separately.
While the shelter has drastically lowered the euthanization rate at the shelter, CARA’s House’s dedicated force of volunteers wasn’t enough to cover all the costs of the operation with its original $200,00 budget or meet the group’s long-term goals for expanded vaccination and spay and neutering services, as well as expected increases in animal populations, backers have said.
Virginia Kelly-Smith, a CARA board member and attorney, read out the results of the shelter’s most recent state inspection from October.
She noted the state gave the shelter high marks for its operations and care for the animals but found the shelter in violation of some state laws due to shortcomings in the parish shelter building, which has no central heat or air-conditioning.
“I’ll just tell you, we failed some pretty critical areas,” Kelly-Smith said.
The Parish Council agreed, 9-1, to put the property tax proposal on the Dec. 8 ballot, the first of at least three procedural votes on the issue in the coming months.
The proposed tax, which would also alleviate pressure on the parish’s primarily sales tax-funded general fund, drew support from Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee, who has opposed several other taxes in Ascension but been an ardent support of the shelter volunteers, and Councilman Aaron Lawler. Lawler said neither he nor constituents in his Prairieville district are fans of taxes. Some of his voters often oppose them on principle, he said.
But he said he would support this new tax, crediting the CARA’s work, efficiency and transparency.
“I think y’all have done a great job, so this is one of those situations that, principle is one thing, but, to do the right thing, that’s the key, and I’m wholeheartedly in support of this,” Lawler said.
Yet to be worked out for the proposal is where the future shelter would be built. Also, Council Chairman Bill Dawson said a special board would have to be created to accept the future tax money that would be applied to a future CARA contract.
Councilman Todd Lambert was the sole vote against putting the measure on the ballot. He said he had a problem with spending that kind of money on a shelter run by contract. He suggested the parish might be able to run it as well for that price.
Councilman Benny Johnson was absent.