Colbert County animal shelter in budget crisis, may have to cut employees

The shelter needs a steady stream of funding, or it will face cutting some employees.

Posted: Jul 3, 2019 5:52 PM
Updated: Jul 3, 2019 7:53 PM

Colbert County officials said the Colbert County Animal Shelter is in a budget crisis and might have to let some staff members go if they can't get more funding.

The mayors of Sheffield, Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia, plus Colbert County Commissioner Tommy Barnes, met with the director of the shelter on Wednesday to try and find a solution to the funding crisis.

"We are strapped right now," said Colbert County Animal Shelter Director Judy Nichols. 

Nichols said the cost of operating the shelter has gone up over the years, but the funding that comes from the county and cities hasn't increased, and it's put them in a bind.

"We need the cities to raise their yearly appropriations," said Nichols.

Nichols, the mayors and the county commission are not on the same page. Some cities feel like they are paying for a service where most of the calls come from the county and don't feel they should pay the same if they are not using the service as much.

"Animal control is made up of four separate entities, the three cities and the county, and not everybody is on the same page," said Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford.

Sanford said to help, he plans on asking city council members to approve a one time appropriation to the shelter, but the long-term plan discussed is to raise the electrical meter rate, which hasn't been raised in 12 years. It could bring in around $70,000 each year for the shelter, but it wouldn't cost tax payers.

"The cities are paying it. We don't have any special tax on pet owners or citizens. The residential meters are what we use as a base for what we go by and we think that's a pretty fair way," said Sanford.

If they don't get a steady stream of funding soon, the shelter will have to make cuts.

"[We're] not shutting down, but possibly losing employees, that's a real possibility," said Nichols.

Any ideas discussed on how to fix the funding crisis will have to be approved by the individual city councils and commissioners.

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