Discrimination And Double Taxation For Animal Shelters - And Response

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Some Commissioners want Hamilton County to donate $10 million in tax dollars to help the Humane Education Society (HES) build a new facility. The majority of Hamilton County residents (specifically those residing in Chattanooga, East Ridge, Lakesite, Walden, Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Soddy Daisy, and Collegedale) will be prohibited from using HES animal services unless their respective cities ALSO pay separate fees from city taxes to obtain coverage.

Un-incorporated county residents will continue to receive animal services for their one county tax payment.

Unless something changes, this multimillion dollar county donation will not bring city residents any significant benefit unless HES allows or the County Commissioners demand all county taxpayers be treated equally.

The services are not equal now and the County Commissioners have made no appreciable efforts to correct the service inequality.

Some cities pay an additional contract fee to buy HES services and some don't. Some support different facilities. East Ridge is considering building their own animal facility. It will be a costly ongoing expense for them. Chattanooga helped build and helps facilitate an animal facility known as the McKamey Animal Shelter. McKamey is a non-profit agency supported by public (Chattanooga taxes) and private donations. Chattanoogans’ are NOT allowed to use HES services even though Chattanoogans also pay county taxes which are used to annually support HES services.

If Hamilton County donates the money, it will allow County Commissioners to wash their hands of the responsibility of providing countywide animal services to city residents who are also county taxpayers. This will occur because the county won't be running or owning the new facility. The arrangement is a fool proof way of reducing county costs via cost shifting. By doing it this way, it legally discriminates against city residents who pay county taxes, while continuing to take care of the animal control needs of unincorporated county residents.

Most citizens want to take care of stray animals. That could happen using one administrative body for Hamilton County. It should happen by using one funding mechanism-county taxes. If animal services are needed countywide, why shouldn't countywide taxes pay the bill?

HES is a fine organization. Knowing that does no diminish the need to do what is right for county residents AND animals. The decision about animal care should be about what's best for the animals and ALL the people who pay to support animals via county taxes.

Big Question: What makes unincorporated citizens worthy of HES animal services based on payment of county taxes, while city residents are denied services despite having paid the same county taxes?

Before you dismiss this editorial, know that I am a city resident and a past volunteer at the HES facility located on Highland Avenue. I admire what HES has done. My husband and I have adopted 5 shelter animals during our 40 plus years of marriage. We are for high quality animal care, adoption, spay and neutering. We don't object to an additional shelter space, if that's what's needed. We object to paying county taxes and being denied the county services.

This is not rocket science. Common sense can solve this, if the "powers that be" will stow their territorial animosities in favor of a broad solution. It's not about what's best for HES or McKamey. It's about what's best for animals and citizens who should be charged ONLY once for services. 

Bottom LIne:
Regardless of whether the County donates $10 million for a new facility or not, double taxation of city residents in order to qualify for HES services is wrong. It is discriminatory. County Commissioners can and should intervene to stop it.

Deborah Scott

* * *

Deborah, while I appreciate your sentiment, the logic of your economics are flawed to say the least. Here’s the facts about county funding and taxation:

Property taxes fund schools which are distributed equitably. 

Sales taxes are another story. In incorporated areas and cities, the cities not the county, gets the bulk of the revenue. 

So, to refute your statement, it’s actually the unincorporated areas of the County carrying most of the burden. Cities should absolutely bare an additional expense to utilize these services and facilities.

PS: Y’all can take back the City School system you bankrupted anytime you like.

Sincerely,
James Berry and the rest of the County

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