Spartanburg County is moving closer to having its own animal shelter, but it may take a couple of years before it is built.
The animal shelter discussion was in addition to County Council getting its first look at budget revenues for the upcoming 2023-24 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The discussions were held during the council meeting Monday afternoon.
County Administrator Cole Alverson told County Council Monday an architectural firm has been hired, but a site has not been chosen yet for a new shelter.
Alverson said SHLTR Architects of Greenville will work with Animal Arts of Boulder, Colorado, to prepare a conceptual design that will lead to cost estimates for the facility.
SHLTR Architects recently designed the upfit and renovation of the former Gilbert & Son building at 151 S. Daniel Morgan Ave. in Spartanburg. The building is now the real estate office of Coldwell Banker Caine.
Animal Arts has designed numerous veterinary hospitals, animal shelters, pet boarding and daycare facilities. The firm also designed equine facilities, including the Tryon Equine Hospital in nearby Columbus, North Carolina.
Spartanburg County has been trying to solve its animal shelter needs since last April when Greenville County Animal Care announced it would stop taking in Spartanburg County’s strays due to its own overcrowded conditions.
Because Spartanburg County decided to build its own shelter, Greenville County shelter officials agreed to continue accepting Spartanburg County’s strays throughout the process.
Alverson said the county won’t know how much the new center will cost until it receives the design plans. But County Council already has agreed to use $5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds for the construction of a new shelter.
The county’s consultant, Sara Pizano, has estimated a new one-story pet resource center would cost $17.5 million and remain open seven days a week and be able to take in 1,500 stray cats and dogs each year.
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Broken down, it would cost $13.5 million for the building and about $4 million for equipment, she said. The annual operating cost would range from $2 to $4 million, depending on whether volunteers or paid county staff are used.
Spartanburg County estimates two years for shelter construction
Deputy Administrator Earl Alexander recently said an ideal site would be one near the center of the county and near Interstates 26 and 85. Pizano said a 2.7-acre site “not near a residential area” would be preferred.
In the meantime, Alexander said the county is working with Greenville County to “establish a volunteer, foster and adoption network” to reduce the number of strays taken to the Greenville shelter.
“We’re also partnering with Greenville County on adoption events,” Alexander said.
Once the cost estimates are received and funding approved, he said the county can move forward with selecting a contractor. He estimates construction will last about two years.
County Councilwoman Jessica Coker said it may seem as if the project is moving slowly, but the county wants to be thorough.
“Staff is working so hard to make sure we get this right,” she said. “I just want to make sure the public knows that we are not taking this lightly. We are doing everything we can to make sure we are 100% prepared in this endeavor.”
Alexander said the county will post updates on the project on its website, here:
Spartanburg County revenues up $15 million
In other business Monday, Finance Director Lisa Benfield gave council an early look at budget revenues for the upcoming 2023-24 county budget.
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Driven by an increase in property taxes due to growth, she said revenues are projected to be $132.9 million, roughly $7.1 million more than in the 2022-23 budget. Also, the county expects to see an $860,000 increase in state revenues – $570,000 of which is more Local Government Fund revenues.
On the spending side, county departments have requested a total of $152 million, which is $15 million more than requested last year, she said.
Benfield did not say whether there would be a tax increase in the new budget, or whether there will be pay increases for county employees.
Last year, the budget held the line on property taxes at 52.1 mills. However, taxpayers again saw a $12-a-year debt service levy on their bills to repay $30 million the county borrowed the previous year for road projects.
Also last year, the budget included a 5% cost of living increase for the county’s nearly 1,500 employees, added 23 new positions and raised entry-level salaries by 2.5% for law enforcement.
Monday night, County Council also approved a budget calendar that sets May 3 for departmental final review; an undetermined date for a budget workshop and first reading; May 15 for a second reading and public hearing; and June 19 for the third and final reading.