HSHV, County Reach Agreement on 2012 Services
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HSHV, County Reach Agreement on 2012 Services
ANN ARBOR – Today the Humane Society of Huron Valley and Washtenaw County released details of a tentative agreement providing animal control related services for the county for the 2012 budget year. The agreement increases the County allocation to HSHV for 2012 and initiates a process to develop a cost methodology to guide ongoing service determinations.
“I’m relieved that we were able to reach an agreement with HSHV that both honors their mission and recognizes our long-term budget constraints,” said Conan Smith, chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. “We only just begun a process that will hopefully secure our relationship for years to come.”
HSHV and Washtenaw County have had a decades-long partnership providing animal control related services to county residents. Recent economic pressures compelled the County to revisit allocations to all of its nonprofit partners in an effort to contain costs, but the cuts proposed to animal control would have forced an end to the County-HSHV relationship.
“Our collaboration is too important to let slip away over misunderstandings,” said Mike Walsh, President of the HSHV Board of Directors. “Both our institutions are under unusual pressures now, and the best way to serve Washtenaw is to continue our partnership.”
Late last fall, County and HSHV officials argued over the appropriate budget for animal control related services, and the County ultimately reduced the annual allocation for HSHV from $500,000 to $250,000. HSHV officials responded that they would not be able to continue services for the county at that level. The County subsequently authorized a short-term appropriation to allow the organizations’ leadership to investigate alternatives.
The proposed agreement – which must be approved by both the County Board of Commissioners and the HSHV Board of Directors – includes two main components: an increase in funding and a process for determining a long-term cost methodology to inform future funding decisions.
2012 Funding Agreement
If the agreement is approved the County will increase its appropriation for HSHV to $415,000 for FY2012. This is a $165,000 increase over the approved budget but also represents a 17 percent decrease from the 2011 allocation. To fund this increase, the County will reduce its unallocated reserves – commonly referred to as fund balance or the “rainy day fund.”
This contract will provide the County with the time and flexibility needed to plan for the future of animal control related services, and it provides an acceptable level of funding for the HSHV to carry on the operations within the realm of the HSHV partnership with Washtenaw County without the need for any layoffs. The County and HSHV did not settle on a true cost for the services that HSHV will provide, choosing instead to work through the Office of the Sheriff to develop a cost methodology over the course of the contract.
"This compromise agreement is an important step in HSHV and the County moving together in a positive and productive way," said HSHV Executive Director Tanya Hilgendorf. "There is no doubt that the 17% cut in our contract amount will be a struggle for us, but we are fully committed to continuing to provide the same level of compassionate, high quality, life saving services that our community has come to expect. We trust the Sheriff’s leadership and expertise in overseeing a process over the next year by which we can study and come to consensus on a service and cost model for the sake of a healthy and safe community, and our lost, abandoned and abused animals."
Cost Methodology Process
During the budget debate, the County and HSHV differed dramatically in how they determined the cost of providing animal control related services, although both acknowledged the important role HSHV’s donors play in supporting the valuable life-saving services HSHV is recognized for. As part of the new agreement they will both participate in a process led by Sheriff Jerry Clayton to develop a cost model for an “Animal Service Unit”. That process will build off of data from the HSHV experience serving the County’s animal control needs and the operational expertise they have developed over the years.
The methodology will emphasize the data associated with the animal welfare services currently provided by HSHV and take into consideration both the County’s and HSHV’s respective obligations. A prime objective of this process will be to develop a mutually acceptable basis for estimating costs beyond 2012.
The County is also considering creating an Animal Services Steering Committee to oversee the process and make a final recommendation on costs and budget to the Board of Commissioners. The committee would include members of the commission and representatives of the County Sheriff, Prosecutor and Treasurer who each have statutory obligations for animal welfare.
Sheriff Clayton expressed optimism that the process would result in a solid set of recommendations. “We’ve used a similar process successfully to build consensus on police services,” he said. “With dependable data and willing participants, we can negotiate a lasting solution that meets the needs of both the County and HSHV.”