Saturday, October 25, 2014

Officials: More spent to house shelter animals than inmates

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 6/16/2014

Prairie Paws Animal Shelter spends more money to house an animal per day than the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office spends to house an inmate in jail.

Presenting a budget request Monday morning to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, Melissa Reed, Prairie Paws director, asked for a 3-percent increase in Franklin County funds for the shelter for a total of $41,200.

Prairie Paws Animal Shelter spends more money to house an animal per day than the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office spends to house an inmate in jail.

Presenting a budget request Monday morning to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, Melissa Reed, Prairie Paws director, asked for a 3-percent increase in Franklin County funds for the shelter for a total of $41,200.

When questioned by the board about how much the shelter spends per animal on housing, Reed said the shelter’s calculations showed a maximum of $53 per animal per day. Board member Colton Waymire and Chairman Steve Harris pointed out the per-day cost was more than the sheriff’s office spends to house an inmate, which is about $40 per day. Reed said the cost per day is higher because of health requirements for the animals, but the shelter has cut staff to make up for the higher expenses.

Reed said a substantial donor, on whom the shelter has relied, is expected to soon stop donating to the shelter to pursue other passions. The loss of funding forced the shelter to search for help from the public, Reed said. The shelter plans to find new ways to generate revenue through fundraising.

“Since we’ve [moved into the shelter’s new location at 3173 K-68] four years ago, the shelter has struggled to sustain operations,” Reed said. “We relied on the same donor to contribute a substantial amount each year to continue to provide a valuable resource to the community. This funding is about to run out and we are now in a position where we have to significantly increase our fundraising and program revenue to continue to operate.”

Vondie W O’Conner Jr., Prairie Paws Animal Shelter board chairman, said the shelter also had previously reduced spending by removing an employment service that cost the shelter unnecessary spending.

“We had a situation happen last year where a director made a judgment call and started using an employment service, which cost a lot,” O’Conner said. “By the time the board got involved, we realized labor rates ... were coming out about $12.50 an hour.”

Waymire said the budget that was presented was incorrect, because the budget reflected that the shelter anticipated to spend the same money for the service. O’Connor said it had to be an error and would check the numbers and send a correct budget to the board.

“That’s an error,” O’Connor said. “We should not have had a projected employment of that much.”

The board plans to continue budget discussions 10 a.m. Wednesday after weekly regular meeting. No action has yet been taken on the budget.

Mental health cuts

Cuts to funding from the national and state level have caused the Elizabeth Layton Center for Hope and Guidance to reduce staff by “two and a half” positions, Perry Chapman told commissioners Monday during the budget study session.

Diane Drake, Layton center executive director, and Perry Chapman, chief financial officer, presented a requested budget to the county that asked for a 5-percent increase, or $8,313, in county funding.

State budget cuts to mental health care and unexpected weather that closed the Layton center for several days in 2013 helped cause the Layton center to spend $150,000 more than it could cover because of lack of revenue, Chapman said. The Layton center was receiving a little more than $1 million from state funding, but has now fallen to about $477,000, Drake said.

“Looking at what we could do different, we wound up with a staff reduction and eliminated two and half positions,” Chapman said. “The biggest strain there was we had a psychiatrist that provided medical services, we just had to eliminate that position. As we move forward that’s what we’re going to have to continue to do.”

Along with the staff reduction, Drake said Layton center also had to reduce significant benefits including retirement.

“I have had a number of resignations over that last three months of people who have been with us for a very long time,” Drake said. “Essentially they needed to find different work they could get the retirement and salary increases they deserved.”

Harris said it was “depressing” that mental health care services are receiving funding cuts.

“[The Layton center] is doing all it can with the continued reduced funding,” Harris said. “It’s just so ironic ... we see what’s going on in our society, and the outward exhibition of the disastrous things that occur, and what is the thing you hear in each of those news stories? In fact, I don’t think there is one I’ve heard that didn’t talk about some sort of mental state.”

Harris said the country needs to find better funding streams to address the mental health issue.

“Unfortunately, until we, as a country, come to the realization and keep talking about it and create a more equitable financial situation, I don’t know if it’s going to get better.”

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