Paying for a cat fix

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board March 14, 2014 09:38 am

We agree with Suzanne Fouty that there are too many feral or otherwise unwanted cats in Baker City.

We also agree with Fouty, who coordinates the Mollie Atwater and Friends Spay/Neuter Program, that an infusion of cash to deal with the problem would improve our quality of life.

But we think there might be a way to achieve that goal without requiring residents to help pay for a project some of them might oppose.

The proposal Fouty presented to the City Council Tuesday calls for the city to add a surcharge of 50 cents per month to all customers’ water/sewer bills.

That would raise an estimated $24,000. Fouty suggests using the money not only to augment the existing effort to spay and neuter feral cats and help pet owners pay to neuter their cats and dogs, but also to hire a part-time coordinator who, Fouty hopes, could leverage the city dollars into substantial grants.

The City Council’s reaction was less than universally enthusiastic.

We’re not surprised.

The issue isn’t solely, or perhaps even primarily, financial. Six dollars per year, after all, is no financial burden for even the tightest budget.

But some people bristle at being required to contribute to something they might not care about, or feel benefits them. And elected city councilors are naturally reluctant, in many cases, to impose new fees, however modest, on their constituents.

We don’t, though, think the city should simply turn Fouty away.

We suggest instead that the city add to water/sewer bills an option by which residents can donate to the spay/neuter project. We’re thinking here of a check-off box similar to the ones on income tax forms where you can contribute to the presidential election campaign fund.

We understand that voluntary donations are a crucial source of money for the spay/neuter fund now, and that the advantage of Fouty’s idea is that it’s a reliable revenue stream that doesn’t depend on individuals’ generosity.

But we believe that soliciting donations through water/sewer bills could reach residents who don’t know about the spay/neuter efforts. And it’s likely that voluntary donations would be, on average, larger than the $6 per year the city would collect with the 50-cents-per-month surcharge. Ideally, an appeal to generosity would raise more money than a required surcharge.