Finance Committee recommends adding $150,000 to CARA budget

CARA President Jolie Culpepper recapping a hard fought victory

“Ladies, if it wasn’t for your passion,” Finance Chairwoman Teri Casso paused to consider her vote which would break the 5-5 tie on whether or not to add $150,000 to CARA’s budget.  “I believe you’re working hard and I still want to see more details.  I am going to vote yes.”

Companion Animal Rescue of Ascension took over the parish Animal Shelter in 2015 pursuant to a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement whereby Ascension Parish provides $200,000 annually.  Knowing there would be a shortfall, adoption fees, fundraising, donations and other revenue generation was supposed to bridge the gap.  On Tuesday CARA President Virginia Kelly Smith noted unanticipated increases in animal intakes, “40% more than expected,” which overwhelmed CARA’s House, the renamed Animal Shelter on Airline Hwy in Sorrento.

It will allow us to keep our doors open,” a jubilant Jolie Culpepper, CARA’s Vice President, said of additional funding.  “And more than that, we will have a veterinarian on staff and institute a Trap-Neuter-Release program for the cats we take into the facility.”

Tuesday marked the third occasion for CARA to present its case having twice come before the Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee-chaired Strategic Planning Committee.  Fitting given Satterlee’s consistent, and vehement, championing of the cause.  In September he could not get a second to his motion to recommend the funding increase and it was decided to have the all-volunteer Board of Directors re-present to Finance (which includes all Council members).

Touting an 82% “live release rate” Smith and Culpepper conceded “euthanasia would reduce cost; but that is not an option” CARA is willing to consider.  3300 animals have been taken in this year by the organization which has incurred $154,684.19 in payroll expenses (none of which goes to CARA’s four-member Board of Directors).  $76,364.52 has been paid in veterinary bills, even with services provided at half-price, which has resulted in the $12,802.67 deficit for 2017.

“I think we can find the money in the General Fund,” opined Councilman Satterlee.  “$150,000 out of the General Fund.  That’s my motion.”

It seemed to fall on deaf ears.  Council Chairman Bill Dawson decried a lack of specificity in CARA’s budget request; “and there are no details associated with it.  I wish I had more detail.”  This from the Council member who pushed…

$50,000 to WRITE an RFQ? Who’s really running things at Governmental Complex?

Satterlee turned such profligacy against Council detractors.  He itemized a list of parish services without dedicated funding; Mosquito Control, Recreation, and Animal Control among them.  All of which come out of the General Fund.

“I think we can find the money.  We can find it for Lamar Dixon’s connector road.  We can find it for buying lots in Donaldsonville…for more soccer fields.  We can find it ($450,000) for a Master Land Use Plan.  We can find it for an owner’s rep (to consider east bank sanitary sewer proposals),” Satterlee asserted.  “I could go on for 20 minutes.  I believe we can find it for CARA.”

Councilman Dempsey Lambert offered a substitute to Satterlee’s motion for $150,000.  Lambert quizzed CARA board members about alternate funding possibilities before moving to recommend allocating $50,000.

“I feel like we don’t have enough data,” Councilman Dawson urged CARA to pursue “a referendum (a new tax) to let everybody in the parish pay for this.”

Dawson went on to offer a second substitute motion to recommend a $75,000 increase.  It failed: 4 Yeas (Dawson, Dempsey Lambert, Aaron Lawler, and Casso) to 7 Nays (Oliver Joseph, Travis Turner, Satterlee, Todd Lambert, Randy Clouatre, John Cagnolatti, and Benny Johnson).

Lambert’s substitute motion, for $50,000, failed for lack of a second, leaving only Satterlee’s $150,000 on the table.  As Chairwoman Casso  called for the vote it seemed a foregone conclusion that CARA and its roomful of supporters would leave dejected…and empty-handed.  But the political process can be full of surprises.

The Votes for…

Finance Chairwoman Teri Casso

The Votes against…

Go figure.

The Finance Committee recommendation to increase CARA’s budget by $150,000 will be forwarded to the full Council.