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Shelter levy’s fate decided today

May 8, 2012
By KATE EVERLY - Hancock County Reporter ( , The Review

NEW MANCHESTER - Today voters in Hancock County will decide whether or not to renew a levy that is currently supporting the Hancock County Animal Shelter with roughly $100,000 a year. The money from the levy, combined with donations and funds raised by the shelter, help it to support the county's homeless and abandoned animals.

According to animal shelter board member and spokesman Tom Goff, the shelter typically maintains the care of upwards of 250 animals.

"The money is used to keep our doors open," said Goff. "It is our lifeline."

Although 3,161 voters were in favor of the levy during a special election on Oct. 4, the 2,165 who voted against it spelled defeat as it did not receive the 60-percent-plus-one-vote margin that was needed for it to continue. It actually failed by 0.6 percent margin.

According to Hancock County Clerk Eleanor Straight, the levy is up for approval on today's primary election ballot so that the shelter can continue with its current operations, saying that if the levy is approved, nothing will change.

"It's basically like a renewal," said Straight.

The shelter is currently being supported by a levy that was initially approved by voters in 2008, supplying it with about $100,000 a year. This levy will expire on June 30.

The levy, originally approved by 64 percent of voters in Hancock County in 2008, would continue for a period of four years beginning on July 1. The levy would not raise the taxes of Hancock County residents, as the shelter is already being supported by a tax they are currently paying.

According to Goff, the levy represents a portion of the shelter's funding that goes toward running the shelter, employee expenses, building utilities, and taking care of the county's homeless animals.

"Taking care of the animals is the most important thing," said Goff. "Our number one goal is always the care of the animals."

Goff said that the levy is particularly important this time of the year with the number of animals that the shelter acquiring. Off added that the shelter also houses animals that once had owners.

"We have had an increase of people dropping off their pets because of the economy," said Goff.

The current levy is gathered by collecting 0.7 cents per $100 of assessed value on Class II property, which includes real estate, and 1.4 cents on Class II and Class IV personal property, including vehicles.

In previous reports, Hancock County Animal Shelter Director Lorrie Byo said that the "levy was needed to improve building conditions and expansion." Byo added that more kennel space for dogs and cats and a dog exercise area were being considered.

Shelter officials had said that they believe that the levy failed in 2011 because the language on the ballot said that the levy was for "additional" levies and did not call it a renewal.

"The levy was added to this primary ballot to show that it is not a tax increase," said Goff. "This is a renewal of what is already in existence."

Goff said that shelter officials have not thoroughly discussed what action would have to be taken if the levy was defeated again, but said that it would likely include cutting some services they provide such as spaying and neutering, rabies clinics, feral cat management, and the dropping off of animals.

"We have confidence in the citizens that they will vote yes for the animals," said Goff.



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