2017-05-17 / Front Page

Animal Control program to begin in June

Sheriff hesitant due to no long-term funding plan
By Debbie Lowe
Staff writer


Leazenby Leazenby Carroll County Commissioners Bill Brown and John Brown held a simultaneous meeting with County Council members Carol Clawson, Ann Brown, Jason Scott, Lawrence “Doc” Stauffer and Melinda Rossetter to discuss the proposed Animal Control program May 11. Commissioner Steve Pearson and Council members Jamie Rough and Tim Ratcliff were not in attendance at the Thursday afternoon meeting.

Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby, who by Indiana Code is the elected official authorized to administer an animal control program, requested the meeting because of recent developments in the county’s financial situation.

It was decided by consensus for the Animal Control program to be initiated as soon as the Sheriff can do the necessary work. In addition, Leazenby said he will ask Commissioners to amend the current county animal control ordinance to increase violation fees.

The decision to proceed came in spite of the Sheriff expressing his concerns for starting a program that might not be funded long-term.

“Why are we at this point?” Leazenby asked as an opening to the meeting.

The Sheriff advised he submitted a budget for the 2017 program last July which the council approved. The budget was subsequently left out of the final version of the 2017 budget due to a clerical mistake by the auditor which was not discovered by the council. Leazenby said the council found in March a way to fund a half-year program from the Riverboat Gambling Fund. It was decided at that time, the program would launch in June.

Leazenby said he became wary of a long-term funding plan when it was learned from the recent Indiana State Board of Accounts (SBOA) audit results that true fund balances are unknown. The Sheriff explained he heard the council talk about 20 percent less revenue from property taxes due to lower assessments of farm ground, as well.

“Why would we implement a program for only five or six months?” the Sheriff asked the county leaders.

Leazenby said he does not want to hire two part-time deputies now only to have to lay them off at the end of December because there is no funding plan for Animal Control.

“I want some guidance here,” he said.

Rossetter chided the Sheriff “for not following the council’s instruction” when the Riverboat funds were approved in March.

“It’s the board’s job to look down the line,” she said.

Rossetter also stated there are no guarantees there will be funding from one year to the next. She said since there has been no Animal Control program in the county, dog owner’s behaviors have become “lax” about the leash laws. Rossetter said some dog owners need the threat of losing their animals to obey the law.

“If the people of this community know there’s no Animal Control, they will ignore the leash laws,” she said.

Leazenby replied that his deputies still enforce the leash laws and cite dog owners frequently.

Stauffer, who provided the veterinary services for the former Animal Control program, agreed with Leazenby about hesitating to begin the program.

“The funding is questionable at best,” Stauffer said.

Leazenby said it does not make sense to him to proceed without a funding plan, but said he would if that is what the county leaders want him to do.

Council member Brown said Commissioners could fund the program indefinitely from the Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) Fund. Commissioner Bill Brown said taking the money from EDIT means “taking it out of road money.” Council member Brown explained the State has committed more funding for roads to Carroll County and there should be no shortage for the roads. She said however, other income streams are not increasing and everyone may have to spend less.

Commissioner Bill Brown said he believes the county is growing, based on building permits issued.

“We could see 60 new homes built this summer,” he said.

“We have hopes or an idea of future funding,” Rossetter stated.

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