PLAINS TOWNSHIP -- Municipalities in Luzerne County may have to start paying for every stray animal that is dropped off at the SPCA.
Wilkes-Barre city officials call the plan a potential budget breaker.
The SPCA of Luzerne County says it has fallen on hard times, with a deficit in the six figures. In order to take care of its animals, they say they need to start charging municipalities for every stray cat or dog that is dropped off -- about 2,100 strays a year.
"Prices have gone up. labor price, insurance, gas, virtually everything we do and touch has gone up in price, so this program was born out of necessity," explained executive director Todd Hevner.
The program would have each municipality pay $100 per stray animal if they sign up for a one-year contract. Based on those numbers, Wilkes-Barre officials say it could cost the city thousands.
"It appears it would cost us about $70,000 a year, which is almost a mill of taxes, so we have a big problem with that," said city administrator Ted Wampole.
Financial records show the nonprofit made a net gain of about $1 million over recent years, while the city is struggling to pay its bills.
"Our argument is we're trying to keep the lights on. We're trying to hold taxes down. We're trying to pay all of our bills, we're struggling. We're an early intervention program and you are making money," Wampole said.
However, the SPCA says only a small percentage of that money can be used for everyday expenses, which is why this fee is necessary.
"It's not an open-ended withdrawal. If you do begin to withdrawal down, you then begin to negatively affect the longevity of the organization as a whole," Hevner said.
The SPCA says it would not accept stray animals dropped off from municipalities that have not signed the contract. This program would take effect on January 1, 2018.