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Humane Society seeks more aid

April 27, 2005|BY TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Seeking 4 percent pay raises, new vehicles and new employees, the Humane Society of Washington County is requesting a 51 percent increase in county funding for fiscal year 2006, which begins July 1.

The County Commissioners weren't ready to support the proposed funding hike after discussing it at Tuesday's meeting.

Some commissioners said they wanted more details, while others opposed the request.

"This is a 51 percent increase," Commissioner John C. Munson said. "I can't agree with this."

Commissioner James F. Kercheval's response to the request was brief.

"No," he said.

The Humane Society is seeking $1.16 million, which is $393,342 more than the $769,746 the county paid the Humane Society in the current fiscal year.

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If the Commissioners approve the request, the county would pay for 84 percent of the Humane Society's total operating expenses of $1.26 million, according to the county's proposed budget for fiscal year 2006.

The request marks the second year in a row the Humane Society has asked for a large funding increase. The commissioners increased allocation to the organization by more than $250,000 in the current fiscal year.

The Humane Society contracts with the county to provide animal control services.

Representatives of the Humane Society did not attend the meeting, sparking comment from Commissioner Doris J. Nipps.

Nipps said she thought they would have showed to talk about the budget.

County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop said the Humane Society wanted to meet with each of the commissioners individually.

"Not me," Munson said.

"I don't like that stuff," Nipps said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he wanted Humane Society representatives to meet with the commissioners as a group.

"We'll have to have them in to talk to them," Snook said.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said the Humane Society, at least, would have to justify the request.

Munson said even that wouldn't convince him to vote for the increase.

"They can come up with all kinds of justifications," Munson said.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Humane Society Executive Director Paul Miller said an increased workload and a rise in fixed costs, such as fuel and health insurance, have contributed to the larger request.

Miller said the number of animals the Humane Society takes in and the number of complaints received have increased, requiring about two or three hearings a month before the Animal Control Authority. Many of the complaints deal with vicious dogs and dog bites.

Such complaints take a lot of time to document, he said.

Miller said he didn't know what would happen if the organization didn't receive the money it requested.

"You can't play the 'what if?' game," Miller said.

The Humane Society's budget includes money for an additional animal control officer; a phone receptionist; 4 percent merit pay increases; a 15 percent increase in medical insurance premiums; a 4 percent increase in supplies, services and equipment for the facility; a 10 percent increase in electricity expenses; and a 15 percent increase in propane fuel expenses.

The shelter's proposed budget includes $798,187 for personnel, $74,610 for utilities, $42,657 for medication and supplies, and $35,800 in veterinarian expenses.

"I think this whole budget is blown way out of proportion," Munson said. "I think we need to cut it ... and I think they'd get along just fine."

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