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Jackson County considers creating service district to fund overcrowded animal shelter

The Jackson County animal shelter.
Jackson County Animal Services Facebook page
The Jackson County animal shelter.

Funding for the animal shelter will be discussed at the Medford City Council meeting on Thursday night.

The Jackson County animal shelter in Phoenix is struggling with low revenue and a lack of space. As a result, the county is considering creating a tax service district to support animal control services.

The shelter released a plea for help last week. At the time, it had 122 dogs and cats and enough kennels for only 86.

Officials say the shelter no longer meets the county’s needs. They propose building a new shelter in Medford instead, funded by a tax district.

"The proposed district will provide animal control services and facilities, including the construction, maintenance, and operation of a new animal shelter for Jackson County and its residents. The proposed new animal shelter will provide for housing and care for dogs and other animals, including cats," according to a staff report for Thursday's meeting.

The county Board of Commissioners is looking for approval from the 11 local municipalities to be included in the district and put the item before voters in the November general election. Each city would only be included in the boundaries of the district if its city council approves a resolution.

The proposal would permanently increase the property tax rate by $0.15 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That rate would increase taxes for a single-family home valued at $350,000 by $52.50 a year.

The proposed tax is predicted to collect over $4 million in its fourth year, according to a presentation from the county.

The shelter is overseen by the county's Department of Health and Human Services. Speaking on JPR’s Jefferson Exchange on Thursday, DHHS Director Stacy Brubaker said the district would provide opportunities.

"If it were to either not make it on the ballot or not pass on the ballot, then that leaves us to make some difficult decisions," she said.

If the proposal does not pass, the shelter would have to reduce its operational and program offerings, be used only for dogs and adjust its fee structure, according to a presentation about the district.

The animal shelter was built in 1975 with capacity for 14 dogs.

"The current animal shelter has reached the end of its life, as design and operating standards for animal shelters has evolved since the animal shelter was built, and the current animal shelter has reached its capacity to be renovated, remodeled, and expanded to accommodate the need for the housing and care of dogs and other animals, including cats," according to the county's economic feasibility statement about the proposal.

All adoption fees are waived at the Jackson County shelter through April 14 in an effort to make more space.

The new shelter is estimated to cost nearly $15 million.

The county says this effort is not new, and it has been working on a conceptual design for an updated shelter since 2021.

On Thursday night, the Medford City Council will discuss the district proposal and whether the city wants to join.

Talent City Council considered the item at its meeting last week but took no action, seeking more information and surveys from staff.

Josephine County has a similar measure on the primary ballot in May regarding a levy to fund its animal shelter.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.