Washtenaw County asking Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and others to pay up for animal control services
Washtenaw County is in talks with five municipalities, including Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, to ask them to pay for animal control services the county is currently providing to them for free.
The negotiations are the next order of business for the county as it struggles to find new revenue streams and keep its relationship on good terms with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, the nonprofit agency with which Washtenaw County currently contracts for animal control.
Administrator Verna McDaniel said she’s spoken with representatives from each of the local governments that currently have ordinances regarding animal control policies: Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Superior Township and Pittsfield Township.
“Now that we all are having these budget constraints, we’re under a cost-share model,” McDaniel said. “We’re hoping that it’s a cost benefit to everyone. It keeps the cost of animal control sustainable for the whole county. This is a way for us to continue partnering and leveraging great services.”
About 80 percent of the seized and stray animals at the Humane Society come from those five jurisdictions, according to an analysis conducted by the county. Washtenaw County currently does not charge any municipality individually to provide animal control measures.
The county is mandated by the state to provide shelter for stray dogs and dogs that are seized during cruelty investigations, but is not required to do so for cats. However, the county has decided that it wants to provide shelter for stray cats.
As the county seeks a way to fund a level of animal control services beyond what it is mandated to provide, the county is now asking those five governments to pay for the services they’re currently getting for free.
“We need some cash on the table so we can move this thing forward,” McDaniel said, explaining the new revenue stream would take some of the burden off of the county.
McDaniel said her goal is to develop contract agreements with the five municipalities before meeting with the Humane Society board to discuss the county’s contract with them.
“When we finally meet with the Humane Society, it will hopefully be with a proposal with other revenue streams that we can contract for,” McDaniel said. “We’re going to do our very best to come up with a contract with the Humane Society.”
The county’s current $415,000 contract with the Humane Society of Huron Valley ends Dec. 31. It was a cut from the $500,000 contract the county had with the organization in 2011, though the same level of service was provided both years.
During a Sept. 7 meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Mark Heusel, vice president of the Humane Society’s board, made a statement that the organization could not continue to shoulder funding cuts from the county.
County commissioners have yet to approve the policy recommendations that came out of two task forces that met throughout the summer.
Per a previous resolution passed by the county board this fall, commissioners would have been bound to put out a request for proposals for animal control services if no headway had been made with the Humane Society by Oct. 31. However, McDaniel said that a request for proposals wasn't necessary.
At the meeting of the Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday, the body will consider a resolution for McDaniel to negotiate a $500,000 annual contract with the Humane Society for up to four years.
Pittsfield Township voted unanimously Oct. 25 with no discussion to contract with the county for about $18,000 a year for the next for years to cover animal control service costs.
Mandy Grewal, Pittsfield Township supervisor, said the township wants to continue to provide animal control services and didn’t feel as if they had much of a choice to vote it down.
For the first year, Grewal said the $18,000 will come out of the township’s contingency budget of $100,000.
The $18,000 figure is an amount proposed by McDaniel, and is an amount the county believes is what is needed to cover the costs of managing the seized and stray animals from Pittsfield Township. The amount is about 5 percent of what the county currently pays for animal control services, Grewal said.
For the four other municipalities the county is seeking contracts with for animal control, McDaniel said the county is seeking undisclosed amounts and cannot release further information as negotiations are still progressing.
The contract amounts will be proportional to the cost of services rendered in each jurisdiction, McDaniel said.
Though Pittsfield Township has been the only local government to bring the issue before its elected officials to date, McDaniel said she’s spoken to representatives from all of them and has been pleased with the cordial, cooperative reception.
“Overall, we want to continue contracting for animal control services. We do not want to have our own facility and do it in-house,” McDaniel said.
Based on the $18,000 rate the county has asked Pittsfield Township to pay for its portion (5 percent) of stray and seized animals cared for by the Humane Society, the county could stand to bring in about $273,375 if it asked for contracts from the five municipalities using the same cost structure that it proposed to Pittsfield Township.
In addition to the potential contract revenue, the county is also considering additional dog license enforcement to help fund animal control services.
The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office estimates there’s about a 5 percent compliance with the current dog license fee structure. According to the Washtenaw County treasurer, that compliance has resulted in the following income to the county’s general fund:
- 2009: $31,195
- 2010: $37,922
- 2011: $86,322 (3-year license program initiated)
- 2012: $47,580 (through September 30)
Increasing dog license compliance by 10 percent or 20 percent could bring in thousands of additional dollars for the county, according to an analysis provided by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.
With the passage of a new civil infractions ordinance, the county could also stand to bring in more revenue from easier enforcement of dog license violations through a new fee structure for offenders rather than a court date.