Stephens Co. Postpones Vote on Shelter Funding

Stephens County Commissioners will wait until its next meeting to decide whether to provide additional funding to the Toccoa-Stephens County Humane Shelter for operations.

Tuesday, county commissioners voted unanimously to postpone a vote on whether to provide an additional $73,000 or so in funding for shelter operations.

Both the city of Toccoa and Stephens County budgeted about $142,000 in the current fiscal year for shelter operations, splitting the total budget 50-50.

The shelter is now asking for about $73,000 each from city and county to get it through until June 30 after having already spent what the city and county budgeted.

Stephens County Commission Chair Dean Scarborough made a motion to provide the funding.

He said that while the shelter budget needs to be looked at and reduced next year, the county has an obligation to the public and the city of Toccoa to provide funding to allow operations to continue this fiscal year.

“When this agreement was made, we did not have an animal shelter,” said Scarborough.  “We did not know what it was going to cost.  Now we are finding out what we have and what it has cost and if we can’t afford to pay for it, then we have to change.  Maybe we have way too much shelter for what we need, than we can afford, so we are going to have to reduce and I am all for reducing.  But I am all for not shutting it down between now and June 30.”

The city and county’s original budget allotment was based on figures provided by former Shelter Director Bob Citrullo in November 2012, prior to the shelter opening.

Commissioners Dennis Bell and Debbie Whitlock both said they would abstain from voting on Scarborough’s motion.

Both noted they were not on the commission when the city and county agreed to the funding arrangement on the shelter and said they want to see more accountability regarding the shelter budget.

Whitlock said the county can’t afford to keep giving the shelter a blank check.

“I am not sure where any of the money is, where it went, why we are in this shape, ” said Whitlock.  “I want strict accounting.  Caps need to be set.”

Whitlock said that the shelter will have to operate under a tight budget like county departments are.

Scarborough’s motion to provide funding failed for a lack of a second.

Commissioner J.B. Hudgins said he wants to see the shelter continue to look at its request for places to cut further, something other commissioners agreed with.

A vote to postpone the request two weeks and look for further cost-saving opportunities in the shelter’s request passed unanimously.

County Commissioner Stanley London, who also serves as Shelter Board Chair, says he appreciates the work of current Shelter Director Jeff Roberts.  Other commissioners echoed those comments.

The Toccoa City Commission has not taken up the shelter’s request for the $73,000 or so in additional funding yet.