The Pioneer Humane Society would not control the purse strings of the animal service district it’s asking Umatilla County voters to approve. Rather, the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners would oversee the new district.
The Pendleton nonprofit will make a pitch Wednesday to the county board to put the question to voters in November. It is asking for a tax rate of 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to fund an animal control district. Jackie Carey, humane society board president, said she believes the organization would be in charge of that revenue.
County counsel Doug Olsen has a different understanding. He explained the Pioneer Humane Society is petitioning for the formation of a new county service district, and the new district — not Pioneer Humane Society — would receive the taxes.
“The new district would need to contract with PHS to provide the services,” he said. “The board of commissioners would be the board for the new district.”
The society operates the Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter and asserted it needs the tax revenue it continue operations. Carey also said the humane society is working on holding public forums and speaking to groups about the proposal.
The humane society had to ask local city councils to approve the petition before going to the county. Carey, who is a Pilot Rock city councilor, said only Milton-Freewater and Hermiston refused the petition. Thus the matter will not go to voters in either city, and taxpayers there will pay nothing even if the measure passes elsewhere.
County Commissioner George Murdock said that presents an awkward situation for county government, which has the obligation to provide services equally throughout the county.
Murdock also said he did not know how the board would vote Wednesday on the petition. The board on past petitions for special or service districts has usually let voters decide.
John Shafer, Athena mayor and commissioner-elect, said that was his philosophy. The Athena City Council in March approved a resolution to put the petition on the ballot.
County commissioners meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. in room 130 at the Umatilla County Courthouse, 216 S.E. Fourth St., Pendleton.