$28,500 added to Pulaski County's spay-neuter fund

Donations to property tax bill start spay-neuter program

Pulaski County's spay-neuter fund, created last year to help stem the tide of stray animals entering shelters, has netted $28,500 so far this year.

It's the first tax-collection cycle in which residents can voluntarily kick in $5 on top of their personal property and business property tax bills after the Give Five option was created by the Quorum Court last fall.

County Treasurer Debra Buckner began accepting tax payments for the 2016 tax cycle in late February, and her office billed county residents $41 million for personal property, which includes assets such as cars, RVs and boats, and $59 million for business property.

According to Chief Deputy Treasurer Bentley Hovis, the county usually receives one-third of all tax payments in the two to three weeks leading up to the Oct. 16 deadline. So far, the county has received payment on roughly 90,000 bills, totaling $12.8 million, or 31 percent of all personal and business property tax dollars due.

And of these payments, county records show that 7 percent of all payees have volunteered the $5 donation. At that rate, the county estimates to collect $68,000 through the Give Five option for this tax cycle.

Although the funds will be dedicated to animal control spaying and neutering efforts, county officials have not yet said how the money will be spent or through what program the funds will be channeled.

In Pulaski County, the nonprofit organization Arkansans for Animals estimates that about 30 percent of all owned cats and dogs are unsterilized, and between 11,000 and 12,000 pets course through the county's several nonprofit and municipal animal shelters each year. In total, $4.5 million is spent annually picking up and sheltering lost pets or stray animals.

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Faulkner County has a similar voluntary tax program that has collected $1.3 million since 2005.

In that program, residents can contribute any amount toward the fund when they pay their property tax bills. In recent years, the fund has added about $120,000 a year, and the Faulkner County Quorum Court has passed a resolution dedicating the money to an animal shelter.

"They didn't want to raise all this money through the voluntary tax and then start pouring money into a spay and neuter program or start using the money to build a couple small pens somewhere," Faulkner County Attorney David Hogue said. "They want to save the right amount of money so they can use it for something really good, which is a shelter, instead of piecemealing it out."

But the $1.3 million collected is not enough to build and run an independent shelter, which an advisory group said should be 7,500 to 8,000 square feet.

Faulkner County officials also are exploring ways to partner with the shelter owned by the city of Conway, including possibly paying for an expansion of the facility and operating it through a city-county partnership.

Conway runs the only shelter in the area, and Hogue said that facility does not take strays off the hands of county residents unless an animal is an evident threat to public safety.

In the past, Hogue said, county residents have dealt with strays in three ways: by shooting those that come across their private property, by housing and nurturing them, or by calling the sheriff's office. The Faulkner County sheriff's office, however, has no animal control staff or equipment.

Metro on 07/17/2017

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