Animal Shelter Private Contributions Use Needs Clarification



At least three fundraising efforts have recently started in Citrus County. These are phase II of the Law Enforcement Memorial, a fundraiser for an 18-year-old who requires surgery for a rare disease and collections to help build a new animal shelter. All three of these, and the many others that are undoubtedly out there, are heartwarming stories that reflect the best of our community.


The Law Enforcement Memorial has already raised over $60,000. Local dairy farmer Leon McClellan has spearheaded the surgical cost efforts with the help of many others including the Phil Royal Legacy Foundation which has raised around $73,000. Lastly the Chronicle recently redoubled an ongoing effort to fundraise for an animal shelter and Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach, who had a $300 check at Tuesday’s meeting from someone, additionally announced her neighbor has $53,000 in donations and pledges.


I’ll never stop being amazed at the selfless capacity of others.


It shows we have a tremendous amount of buy-in whether it is buy-in to this community or to individual causes. Buy-in is an apt term since there’s a financial aspect involved in donating, but this type of behavior can be defined in many different ways such as collectivity in how one thinks or acts as well.


However, the way some of us practice buy-in in Citrus County is not abnormal when compared to others nationally but it is unhealthy. Some community members use a metric of loving Citrus County as a measure of your value within the community. This is problematic because then to question the virtue of anything seen as good in the community becomes heresy that lowers your perceived love for the county and thus your value to it.


This is despite the fact that honest questions stem from motivation to make a good thing even better rather than to tear a culture apart.


This is not unique to Citrus County. A popular refrain from my fellow conservatives is “if you hate America so much, why don’t you leave it?” On the eve of a solemn holiday weekend like Memorial Day when we reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of what so many have given, I’m tempted to echo that statement.


But there is a difference between hating your community or country and honestly questioning it in hopes of making it better. What follows, with your merciful interpretation, will be the latter.


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The Chronicle’s animal shelter fundraiser is troublesome to me because I don’t think it is providing enough information or context to the donors, which is ironic given the nature of the company hosting it.


We don’t believe that it is a guarantee that the donated money will be used to offset the cost of the shelter to the taxpayer, yet we think that’s at least in part of why people may be contributing. Here’s two reasons why this may not be the case.


The motion proposed by Commissioner Jeff Kinnard that passed 3-2 earlier this month directed the county to plan for a baseline shelter for between $8-9 million but to include in that plan the ability for four add-on rooms with private funding. During the public comment portion, a shelter supporter said she hoped the roughly $1.5 million that has already been raised in private donations would not be included in that $8-9 million budget.


Kinnard clarified that his motion was to include the private funds that have previously been raised toward the baseline cost. However, he did so while assuming the shelter would cost $9 million rather than $8 million and the meeting continued with the understanding that the current public cost of the shelter was $7.5 million.


It’s entirely possible that the private fundraising after this motion has been approved will be used toward the add-ons, not toward the public portion of the shelter, especially since at least one of the shelter supporters has pushed for that to be the case with what was previously raised. The Chronicle’s editorial states, “we pledge those dollars will be used for the stated purpose.”


The stated purpose in the approved motion is that private dollars are for two community rooms, a sally port and a cattery; not to offset taxpayer cost.


It’s a great thing the Chronicle is doing. The nearly $25,000 it has raised in less than a week shows the best of what this county is capable of. Some clarification is needed, though, through constructive questioning even at the risk of sounding conspiratorial or corrosive to county buy-in culture.


A 750 word column about Citrus County published every Thursday and Sunday