NEW ALBANY — The Floyd County Council unanimously approved paying $200,000 toward its animal shelter bill Tuesday, though officials still want to meet with city leaders about the joint agreement.
The main issues surrounding funding for the New Albany-Floyd County Animal Shelter remain unsettled. Mayor Jeff Gahan’s administration believes the county owes the city money for not covering its full share of the shelter budgets over multiple years. County leadership largely believes the city has overcharged its partner based on expenses and not the budget.
County leaders still want a meeting with Gahan and New Albany City Council members regarding the 1999 agreement. County Councilwoman Connie Moon, who sponsored the $200,000 appropriation, which was initially $100,000 before the body agreed to raise the amount, said she has requested to appear before the city council during next week’s meeting to discuss the situation.
One point where both sides seem to be in agreement is that the shelter is well-managed and the employees are stuck in the middle of the debate between the county and the city.
Council members said Tuesday that the $200,000 appropriation hopefully will prove that the county wants to support the shelter, but they also maintained that both sides need to come to the table.
“I feel like we’re doing this in good faith,” said County Councilman Adam Roberts.
The money will come from riverboat funds, which are collected via casino revenue. Moon said she would sponsor another $50,000 appropriation next month pending the city’s willingness to either agree to work toward a new deal or to honor the current arrangement.
Technically both sides have violated the terms of the deal. The larger entity based on population, which is Floyd County, is required to pay 51% of the approved annual budget. But the city and county councils are also required to meet under the contract if a shelter budget isn’t mutually approved.
Such meetings haven’t occurred, as the city council typically passes the shelter budget and the county is billed.
“We don’t owe them anything. There is no budget,” said County Council attorney Steve Langdon.
He was responding to a comment by Councilwoman Denise Konkle, who said she believes the county owes the shelter more than $250,000 for 2021.
Multiple county leaders have said that until the city meets with the county council to pass a budget, then technically what’s being billed isn’t accurate and doesn’t align with the joint agreement.
Which entity owes what depends on which side is asked.
New Albany City Controller Linda Moeller sent Floyd County Auditor Jacqueline Wenning an invoice Monday showing the county owed $357,000. The amount was divided between a $108,274 payment for the first four months of 2021, along with a debt of $248,726 for past unpaid amounts from 2003 to 2020.
But the county contends the city actually owes money because the budget amounts haven’t matched with expenses.
The backdrop of the issue is a soured relationship between the city and county that has resulted in the split of a joint parks department as well as the lack of an appetite to combine 911 dispatch services over the past decade.
As for Moon speaking during the May 20 city council meeting, a message left with Council President Greg Phipps on Wednesday afternoon hadn’t been returned as of News and Tribune press time.
City Councilman Josh Turner said “anybody that wants to speak, especially an elected official, should have full access to our council.”
When it comes to discussing the joint agreement, Turner said the county appears to be more willing to meet than the city.
“It’s important that the county and the city work together for the benefit of the taxpayers, because if they can’t work together, it’s going to come at a cost to the taxpayers,” he said.