Concern over timing to include for 2018
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Given the lateness for municipalities in Oneida County, which are in the process of putting together their tax bills for next year and sending out notices for fees in 2018, the county’s Administration Committee decided Monday to postpone action on a resolution calling for an increase in dog license fees.
As proposed, a resolution to change the general county code calls for an increase in dog license fees from $3 to $5 for spayed/neutered dogs and from $8 to $15 for dogs not neutered or spayed.
The proposed ordinance amendment also calls for distributing the surplus in the “Dog License Fund” to the Oneida County Humane Society, acting as the pound facility for the county, and not to the towns.
However, committee members agreed to postpone action on that resolution after hearing from county treasurer Kris Ostermann, who noted $7,181.81 in surplus license funds went back to the municipalities out of the $10,100 in gross collections by the towns for 2016.
Ostermann said she sent out a letter to the towns last month about the proposed dog license fee increases and the plan to provide the humane society with the surplus funds, but she noted some of the towns won’t have another meeting to be able to respond in time to the proposed changes.
“The issue is the timing on it, especially for the town treasurers,” she said.
Ostermann said a lot of the towns include their license fee information on the tax bills, which would be on hold until the fees are finalized for next year.
“Those tax bills will start to be printed on Nov. 20, as soon as all the budgets are done,” she said.
When asked by County Board chairman Dave Hintz whether it would be too late to raise dog license fees for next year, Ostermann said, “That’s the way the opinion I’m getting (has been going).”
“The towns want more information on it, and they don’t have time to ask for it,” she said. “I’ve had a couple of town chairmen contact me, because I had contacted their clerks and treasurers. They responded to me and said, ‘We don’t have enough time, in this budget period right now, to ask questions.’”
Ostermann said the questions she has received from the towns include whether the humane society is going to be the humane officer for all the towns and pick up stray dogs all hours or just when open. She also noted the town of Woodruff approved increasing dog licenses by $2 to pay the cost of picking up stray dogs brought to the pound.
County corporation counsel Brian Desmond said a “complicating issue” regarding the handling of fees is a state attorney general’s opinion that came out on Sept. 1 and indicated counties cannot make donations to non-profit organizations without specific statutory authority.
“I think the question we have to focus on here is, ‘Are we going to contract with the humane society for 2018?’” Desmond said.
Desmond said the county could possibly face a legal challenge if it gave the humane society funds without having a contract in place.
Representatives from the humane society were also on hand for Monday’s committee meeting. Maggie Hogan said it is the humane society’s position that it has a contract for services, rather than receiving a donation from the county.
“Just because the recipient is a non-profit, there’s a distinction there,” Hogan said. “And we are hoping to become the facility that is the stray hold facility, thereby providing a service to the county.”
Desmond disagreed, noting that because of the attorney general’s opinion, the county should enter into a contract with the humane society. With around $40,000 being budgeted by the county for the humane society in 2018, he noted a contract could be worked out for next year.