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Committee suggests sales tax pay for animal shelter
Project could be included in proposed extension
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Forsyth County News

What's next
The committee's next meeting is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. April 26 at the Forsyth County Administration Building. Meetings are open to the public.

The committee exploring the future of a Forsyth County-owned animal shelter has recommended the facility be built with money from a possible extension of the 1-cent sales tax.

The unanimous recommendation of the five-member Forsyth County Animal Control & Shelter Advisory Committee will next go to the county commission, which will decide whether to act on it.

The current sales tax does not expire until June 30, 2013. A referendum on a proposed extension could be held this fall, though that has not been made official.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt, who serves as a non-voting member on the committee, said county officials anticipate an election in November and are preparing a list of projects the tax extension could fund.

Merritt read an e-mail from David Gruen, the county financial director, who recommended using sales tax funds rather than dipping further into the county's reserves.

"It's important that we build these reserves back and bring the county's general fund into a stronger financial position," Gruen wrote.

If voters approve the sales tax, about $2.5 million of the money would likely fund construction and supplies for the shelter.

"Done that way, there's a better opportunity that we would get the quantity of money that we need to build this shelter," said John McGruder, who chairs the animal shelter committee.

Whenever it occurs, the referendum on a sales tax extension would include a list of projects proposed for Cumming and Forsyth County, with higher priority items receiving funding first.

The shelter committee recommended the animal shelter be at the top of that list.

The group also suggested that the county take out bonds within six months of voters approving a tax extension, so the funding for the shelter could be accessed quickly.

The bonds, in turn, would be repaid by the sales tax money as it comes in.

Committee member Lance White, who is also president of the local humane society's board, expressed concern about adding the shelter to the sales tax referendum without knowing what else would be on there.

"I don't want it to be where some things are put on there that I may not agree with and then everybody on the county votes on it because it's about the animals," White said.

The committee also whittled the 10 potential locations for the shelter to three county-owned properties: County Way off Hwy. 400; a site off Hwy. 20, northwest of Cumming; and Fowler Park.

County Way appears to be the committee's frontrunner, though the group delayed further discussion of the matter until county officials can speak with the Georgia State Patrol about leasing some neighboring land.