The Ascension Council recently approved an amendment (#3 if you count) to the 2022 operating and investment budgets adopted November 18, 2021. Changes included:
- Animal Services Fund – (Increased CARA Home Credit for additional payroll costs incurred while animals were housed at Lamar Dixon)
Expenses and other uses of funding: Credits – Maison du CARA $49,000
The appropriation of CARA’s House passed by council unanimously on Thursday highlights the challenges of building a new state-of-the-art animal sanctuary while struggling to meet the continued demands of animal control and continued operation of a dilapidated facility. The funds came from the general fund of Ascension.
The Animal Services Fund is receiving revenue generated from a $1 million property tax approved at the polls on December 8, 2018 when 16.4% of voters bothered to show up. 6,398 “YES” votes to 6,045 “NO” votes and every landowner in Ascension Parish is responsible for:
“One (1) mill on all taxable properties in the parish (approximately $1,300,000.00 reasonably expected at present to be collected from the tax levy for an entire year) (the “tax “), for a period of ten 10 years, beginning with the year 2019 and ending with the year 2028, for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining and operating an animal sanctuary for the Parish, including the necessary equipment and installations.
Even better, if you control the fund, the estimated revenue generation has reduced the value of a parish-scale mill by a few hundred thousand dollars. In effect since 2019, the total collection for three years exceeds $4.5 million.
Two sites considered for new animal sanctuary with groundbreaking in 2023
But will that be enough?
According to the minutes of the Animal Service Board’s April 6 meeting, that “looks like $1,259,000 saved so far for the shelter.” JTwo potential animal shelter sites were under consideration in January, both east of the town of Gonzales in the right triangle formed by Airline Hwy and LA 30 (see image at top of page).
Shelter planners preferred proposed site #1 because “it has more visibility from the highway, better access, less flooding problems, and more usable space.” Visibility in a high traffic area has been cited as the most important factor in increasing pet adoptions. As for design, the factors to consider in building a modern animal shelter are too numerous to list here. Two options were presented.
- Option #1 is a 21,628 square foot facility (16,732 closed) at a cost of between $6.5 million and $9.2 million.
- Option #2 (“Bare Bones”) envisions 17,195 square feet (13,534 closed) with a range of $4.1-7.3 million.
After accumulating three years of savings ($1,259,000), collections are on track to generate $4,196,667 over ten years of property tax collection.
According to April 6 minutes from the Animal Services Board, three sites are being considered for the construction of a new animal sanctuary. These records include:
- Site A: 6.53 acres off Highway 30. A company may wish to purchase 2.63 acres in Parish after purchase. Would ultimately cost 550k parish. No wetlands, no flooding, already zoned
- Location B: Off Airline Hwy. Very expensive. Not in a flood zone.
- Site C: Airline and Highway 431. Just behind a neighborhood. Not in a flood zone.
The work of animal control operations and shelters…
is not suspended while funds are raised to acquire and/or construct a new facility. The January ASB minutes claimed…
“The parish currently has an annual operating cost of $899,500, which includes $350,000 paid into the CARA house. Cara’s House currently has an operating cost of $696,020.58. The total operating cost for CARA parish and house is $1,245,520.
At the time, President Clint Cointment’s administration said:
The administration worked with the Department of Animal Control, the Board of Animal Services and Shelter Planners of America to come up with a needs assessment and cost estimates for a new shelter. The Animal Services Board will present its recommendation, along with the Shelter Planners of America, to the Board tentatively in February 2022.
Currently, the administration is on schedule to issue a request for quotations for engineering/architectural services once a plan has been approved by council. We plan to start in 2023 and our administration is currently negotiating a property donation for the shelter. The administration is also looking at grant funding options to help supplement that part of the tax needed to fund the shelter, and is also considering cost-saving measures such as donating land. We look forward to the Animal Services Commission presenting the options to Council, hearing their feedback and moving forward to initiate this project.
Four months later and… no action taken, nor publicly considered.