A platoon of speakers opposing proposed cuts to the Killeen Animal Services division addressed the Killeen City Council on Tuesday during the final public hearing before the council is scheduled to approve its 2018 budget next week.
Seven residents of Killeen and area cities told the council that a proposed $30,000 scaleback in supplies and the elimination of two vacant animal control officer positions would endanger the lives of animals in the Killeen Animal Shelter and threaten to lower the city’s stated 80 percent live release rate goal.
“Any budget cuts related to the shelter are ludicrous and show no empathy toward shelter animals,” Linda Marzi said.
George Fox said while the cuts to the shelter were used to balance the city’s proposed budget, the council had an opportunity to consolidate support for the struggling shelter and raise the live release rate.
“We should take this opportunity around this budget to rally the city in support of our shelter,” Fox said. “Who wants to go down there and volunteer if we’re just going to kill everything?”
Council members, Mayor Jose Segarra and City Manager Ron Olson reiterated their support for the shelter and its goal of becoming no kill in the future but defended the budget’s proposed cuts.
“No one up here wants to kill any animals, and our hearts are with you,” Segarra said.
“The challenges for this budget were huge, and the challenge for next year’s general fund (from which the shelter is funded) will be equally challenging,” Olson said. “There are still a lot of wants and needs out there that we need to deal with.”
The city’s proposed 2018 budget is balanced and forecasts $180.2 million in expenditures.
The council also held a public hearing on the city’s proposed property tax rate of 74.98 cents per $100 of taxable value assessed — the same as last year.
Two residents, Mellisa Brown and Bob Blair, addressed the council. Blair highlighted what he called a “procedural error” in setting the preliminary property tax rate so low that the council cannot by state law consider a higher rate, if necessary, to put funds aside for emergency needs.
The council is scheduled to vote Sept. 19 to ratify the property tax rate and annual budget.
The council’s special meeting will be at 5 p.m. at the City Council chambers at City Hall, 101 N. College St.