by Eren Tataragasi

CORNELIUS – Commissioners voted Monday night, March 19, to do away with its pet tax.

For the last two years, the town has been charging a $20 or $50 licensing fee to residents who have pets in town. A one-year license cost $20 and a three-year license cost $50. For animals that had not been neutered or spayed, the cost was $50 for a one-year license.

While the money brought in revenues to help operate the town’s animal shelter, there was no way to enforce the licensing fee so the town only had, at best, a 60 percent collection rate.

Because of this imbalance, the majority of commissioners felt they should do away with the fee.

“None of this feels like the Cornelius way,” said Commissioner Jeff Hare during the meeting. “So I motion we cut taxes by cutting the animal licensing fee.”

Commissioner Lynette Rinker seconded the motion, but amended it to say it would be effective July 1, and those who had already paid would be pro-rated and reimbursed.

But not every commissioner was on board.

Commissioner Chuck Travis felt canceling the fee was “counterintuitive,” because it left the animal shelter to rely on donations and adoption fees for its budget.

But commissioner John Bradford said it had to be done.

“This is fundamentally not fair to the people paying and folks who aren’t,” Bradford said. “If we can’t collect, and we have to treat pets as property, that opens up other issues. We’re almost forced to undo it because it’s not being fair to all people.”

The board voted 4-1 in favor of eliminating the fee.

In other business:

• Commissioners voted to approve a letter to the N.C. Department of Transportation and the Red Line Regional Rail project consultants, outlining items they’d like to see in the revised plans that are currently being drafted.

• Commissioners sent back a letter to Police Chief Bence Hoyle for more review to better stress the importance of the town taking over Lake Patrol before submitting it to the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners.

• Commissioners approved a budget amendment, giving the police department $120,000 from the 911 Rollover fund to pay for the re-banding of the public radio system.

• Commissioners approved the bill that will be sent to the state legislature to extend the term of commissioners, for one time only, from two to three years, to line up with the federal elections, beginning in 2016.