JoCo Shelter makes case for new levy

Josephine County Public Health Director Michael Weber and Animal Shelter Manager Laura Jensen delivered a presentation before the JoCo Commissioners Jan. 31 spelling out the reasons why the shelter needs an increased levy to continue functioning.
In the meantime, Jensen explained, the shelter is raising various fees to “recuperate some of the cost of service for the adoption of our animals” before voters get a chance to weigh in on raising the levy. She added that the three major challenges facing the shelter are: aging infrastructure insufficient funding and inadequate funding.
“We are trying to still keep those fees low so those folks are encouraged to adopt, so we’re not quite going to meet the cost of service all from adoption fees but a combination of the intake and adoption,” Jensen said.
According to Jensen, the following few adjustments are being made: $80 to $90 for adult cat adoption; $105 to $120 for kittens; and $165 to $175 for dog adoptions.
“These are all still the lowest fees I can find in our area, so we’re still going to be competitive,” remarked Jensen, before adding that cat litter intake would cost $30 instead of $20 and adult cat intake would go from $15 to $20.
The shelter’s revised fee schedule and levy increase were calculated after Jensen surveyed other animal control entities in the region – 15 similar animal shelters. Charts were produced demonstrating how Josephine County stacks up with these organizations, which Weber shared during his presentation.
Of the 15 shelters surveyed, JoCo took third place for animal intake, and was one of only four to take in over 2,000 animals during the year 2022. JoCo was third to last in terms of revenue, however.
Because of this limited funding, JoCo ranked second to last in terms of how much money was spent per animal, and was last place for staff per animal.
“We do an amazing job of keeping our cost down,” said Weber. “That’s a good and a bad thing. Mainly we do it because we have to. We don’t have a choice; we don’t have the revenue to do more; we don’t have the revenue to spend more. Other partners help us take on a lot of the burden as I said by taking transfer of animals and oftentimes our revenue is supplemented because we’re using supplementation of revenue from other programs in public health.”
Aside from limited funds, another deficiency the shelter would like to improve is space.
“We’ve had the same number of kennels since 1978,” Jensen explained. The population of Josephine County has gone up by about 30,000 people since then, yet no more kennels have been added to account for this rising population and therefore dog population.” She added that JoCo has the second-lowest kennel to animal ratio in the region.

Some of the infrastructure – related problems Jensen mentioned included failing septic and drainage systems; insufficient ventilation; lack of air conditioning; and unsanitary conditions.

“For some of the months of the year we do not meet the USDA requirements for kennels and what they need to be,” warned Jensen. “This puts our animal rescue entity license at risk and could risk closing the shelter which is a required chartered obligated source of sheltering for legal dogs.”

Jensen added that as “overcrowded,” “understaffed,” and “insane” things were at the shelter in 2020, the situation has significantly worsened since then, as service calls have nearly doubled over the past three years.

“The current facility is not up to par,” Weber stated. “It’s not something we can continue to operate within and something has to be done about it.”

The levy proposal is for 27.6 cents per $1,000 assessed property value over the next five years for operational costs, up from the current 11 cents. In addition, the shelter seeks 19.4 cents per $1,000 for the upgrade of its facility, which would cease once the upgrades are fully paid for. The total levy ask would be for 47 cents per $1,000, though it would be noted on the ballot that the figure would drop down to 27.6 once the facility expenses are concluded.

Valley resident Nancy Lindquist was invited to speak after Weber’s presentation concluded. Lindquist was the citizen who advocated for the levy increase starting years ago, is the director of the nonprofit Toby Fund and served for eight years on the Animal Shelter Advisory Board.

“One of the biggest things is that the cost for spay and neuter has gone up at least 40%,” Lindquist said. “We don’t have enough veterinarians and the cost for them has gone up so one of the big issues that’s facing the shelter is trying to pay for spay and neuter.”

Lindquist went on, “The shelter is always there but you know, I’ve been out there recently and you can’t walk in the door without having two dogs in big carriers in the reception area. There’s just not enough room for them. In any case, I’m asking the commissioners to give an okay for this to go to the public because this is really a necessary situation.”

Also at the meeting, JoCo Recreation Director Tamra Martin laid out miscellaneous fee adjustments for services rendered by her department. These included:

-Firewood at campsites from $5 to $10

-Packaged ice at campsites from $3 to $5

-Memorial bench program rolling out

-Yurt being converted to pet-friendly; fee raised to cover cleaning cost

-Boater overnight parking fee at Almeda Park

-Increased fees for shelter rentals at parks

-Variety of fees related to burial plot purchases at Granite Hill Cemetery