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The Miller County Quorum Court approved the enactment Monday of a "voluntary assessment" of $20 at the discretion of the taxpayer to benefit Miller County Animal Control.

"The money will go to the animal shelter to help offset the cost of the fees to the citizens of Miller County," Miller County Judge Cathy Hardin Harrison said. "I am waiting to speak with the director of the shelter regarding the number of animals that are brought in from the county. I am hoping to get the numbers for 2017 and 2018.

"The current fee to rural Miller County residents is $150 per animal. Miller County has a major problem with animals being abandoned in the county. Hopefully, reduced fees will help with this issue. We are also looking into spay and neuter programs with our local veterinarians."

The ordinance provides a mechanism where property tax statements may contain an option for property owners to make a voluntary contribution.

"Although the Arkansas code refers to such enactment as a 'voluntary assessment,' any such enactment is not levy of a mandatory tax and payment is solely within the discretion of the taxpayer," the ordinance states.

The Quorum Court can levy an annual voluntary contribution in the amount of $20 per every tax statement issued by Miller County for the benefit of the county with the purpose of the funds being used by the county judge as operating funds for Miller County Animal Control, according to the ordinance.

"I posted on my Facebook County Judge page asking for citizen's input," Harrison said. "It was shared many times with hundreds of comments that were positive."

Residents of Bowie County offered to donate, too, she said.

"I have met with (Texarkana, Ark., City Manager) Kenny Haskin regarding this matter," Harrison said. "This is an issue the city and the county need to work together on.

"I am asking the Quorum Court to consider and approve a voluntary assessment from Miller County residents of $20 to be added to the tax statements for the year of 2018. This voluntary assessment would initiate the first step in addressing animal control issues that have forever plagued Miller County."

Harrison showed concern for residents outside city limits, including Miller, Fouke, and Bowie counties and Texarkana, Texas.

"Abandoned, neglected and stray animals are a major issue in our county, and those citizens who would like to bring these animals to the city animal shelter cannot afford the current fee of $150 charged to those outside the city," Harrison said. "The voluntary assessment would go to the animal shelter to offset the $150 fee, so more residents could help with this problem, rather than ignoring because of the cost."

"The second step would be exploring with assistance from the Miller County Sheriff's Department the possibility of establishing an animal control unit for the county, in establishing two full-time animal control officers to address the many daily calls of animal complaints that cannot be addressed because there are no personnel and resources to do so."

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