Friday, March 23, 2012

Cats, Cops, & The Bomb Squad

Most people know that I harp on the financial drain that the no-kill movement and laws like CAPA have placed on all shelters, including even their own no-kill shelters. In a recent news story on the front page of the Delaware State News, the costs of CAPA were also discussed. The story discusses the bleak financial picture CAPA has created for the Kent County SPCA, and their struggle to live in a post CAPA world. Yes there was a $450,000 deficit for this shelter in the first year according to the article, but I want to instead focus on yet another ridiculous side effect of this law today. The following quote is from that story:
"The shelter is also concerned with cat control. As it currently stands the SPCA is not responsible for cats, but they’re a huge problem.

Mr. Usilton cited a recent case in New Castle County, where a crate of cats was dropped off outside a Mc­Donald’s, but nobody would come and pick them up. After repeated phone calls to animal control au­thorities and being denied, someone called in a suspicious package threat — bringing out multiple police units and the bomb squad."
This is what things have come to in Delaware as a result of CAPA.  No one will take in cats because the shelters are full, so now we are wasting taxpayer dollars to call out police units and the bomb quad for one crate of cats. What a ridiculous waste of taxpayer funds, and who knows what kind of collateral damage may have occurred if a crime was taking place elsewhere that these officers could have been responding to.  I'm surprised that our state hasn't earned a starring role on Anderson Cooper's Ridiculist for this one.

Since we no longer have an open access shelter for cats since Kent County SPCA was bullied out of staying open access to them, and because of the financial burden that this new law placed on them.  There is nobody that will accept cats other than being placed on a waiting list.  That means this year alone there will be at least an additional 5-6000 cats and their resulting offspring roaming the streets and neighborhoods in Delaware.  I assume the cats in the story above were not harmed or blown up by the bomb squad since it only made the news as a side note, but I shudder to think of what might be happening to other cats dropped off in locations where there might not be anyone to rescue them, or even worse. 

But I do want to review the list of players to show the taxpayer costs that won't be seen in the shelter financials.  There's been the various agencies asked to investigate alleged CAPA violations  - Dept. of Agriculture, the Governor's office, various legislators, county officials, the State Attorney General office, and that was just for one dog.  Now we have multiple police units and the bomb squad for a crate of cats.  I can't imagine what's next for us.  Well, at least there's consolation in the fact that other states like New York and Florida get a realistic look before they consider leaping into CAPA, or it's derivatives like CAARA and FARA. So much for for sweeping and progressive

Next time maybe the press should get a group picture of the bomb squad, police and the cats to commemorate the spending of thousands of dollars of taxpayer's money. I'm sure the movement that brought us CAPA would post the pic with a story about how it cost taxpayers less money for the bomb squad than for an animal control officer, and the kicker is his followers would buy it. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kent County Levy Court - What Unfunded Mandate?

I took the the opportunity tonight to watch the recent meeting between Kent County SPCA and the Kent County Levy Court.  Right now, I'm not sure what level of government here is more clueless - the state or the county.

I've said all along that CAPA was an unfunded mandate and tonight the discussion took place with Kent County Levy Court on what the cost is to the only shelter handling animal control in the state going forward. It was discussed that CAPA is costing KCSPCA around $2 million to jump through the various hoops that CAPA requires - required vaccinations and an 8 hour window to perform them which must be monitored to ensure compliance, emails out to the rescue registry even though those rescues only take a small percentage of the animals, website requirements, responding to never ending complaints, etc.

It was ridiculous that the Levy Court Commissioners seemed to be oblivious to how the above listed examples would impact KCSPCA's contract with the county. They seemed to believe that the shelter should be able to absorb that additional cost, not the county, even though the various county contracts result in the majority of dogs that enter the shelter. Considering my previous post showing that KCSPCA currently has little in cash reserves, and that it is more likely that donations have already been supplementing the animal control contracts, I find it amazing how financially clueless our Levy Court Commissioners are. If KCSPCA continues to absorb the costs they will be bankrupt and our county no longer has an animal shelter available to the citizens of Kent County, let alone someone to handle animal control. And needless to say if that occurs, Kent County will be in the same position that Wilmington is in now, trying to figure out who will handle animal control in several months. And I definitely don't think that the commissioners understood the fact that CAPA will also apply to them if KCSPCA drops the next contract and the county has to handle animal control. My bet is they will be crying bloody murder to state officials when they have to fund those costs directly. I'm not sure if the commissioners lack a certain financial aptitude, or whether they are just in denial and don't want to hold their state counterparts responsible, but either way I have a concern with their not ensuring that county taxpayers are protected from additional costs in the future. Isn't that part of what we pay them for?

The Levy Court Commissioners also acted as if it was Kent County SPCA's responsibility to tell them that the state legislature would pass a law that mandated additional costs to the county. It's bad enough that our state officials are willing to create and pass unfunded mandates, and unlike 27 other states has no laws to prevent it, but I also find it pathetic that county officials do not monitor pending state legislation to ensure that they can voice opposition to mandates that will cost county taxpayers. While Sussex County officials seemed just as clueless when a similar discussion took place months ago, they at least recognized that the law was an unfunded mandate after the discussion and addressed it as just that. .

FOIA Discussion

Another twist to the meeting was a comment made in the public comment part of the meeting at minute 44:18 .
"In fact, Senator Patricia Blevins has requested a FOIA investigation and determination regarding the Kent County SPCA" - removed board member of Kent County SPCA Carol Furr
If the above is true, it appears that just because Kent County SPCA gets tax funds as a vendor for the counties and the state, that Senator Blevins must think they should be subject to FOIA requiring public access to their records and their board meetings. So I assume that will also apply to the shelter that she is listed as an advisor for, Faithful Friends, since they also got tax funds under the state grants-in-aid budget. I'm looking forward to doing FOIA requests on the many organizations and companies that receive taxpayer funds. I wonder how many companies like Staples, Office Depot, HP, and others will want to do business with the state when that happens? And I do have a neighbor that does some plowing for the state, so I can't wait to get the inside scoop on his finances so I can can be king of the local gossip trail. Seriously do our state and county officials really believe they should have unfettered access to every company and individual that does business with the government?  Yes we should have access to the accounting of the contracts, but it's crazy to think that every company would be required to hand over all their records and allow taxpayers access to their board rooms because they sold our government a toner cartridge.  We definitely have some politicians in our state who are power tripping.

Back To CAPA

Which brings us back to my favorite subject of CAPA. I can only hope, based on Mr. Winograd's post, that  the various states listed are seeing our example and keeping this flawed legislation out of their own backyards. Hopefully they realize that it is an unfunded mandate, and as they can see from our example, it was not a magic elixir to becoming "no-kill"

"As in any effort involving legislative endeavors, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that we succeeded in introducing legislation in six states: Florida, Virginia, Georgia, New York, West Virginia, and Minnesota....Of course the bad news is that we’ve not had legislation pass this session. It was tabled in Virginia and Georgia. It is stalled in West Virginia and Minnesota. And with the end of a shortened legislative session due to redistricting in Florida, our efforts there will also not be successful this year. In New York," Nathan Winograd's blog
Obviously I'm certain that his followers will continue to find legislators in various states that are willing to propose it for the pretty photo op, but hopefully there will continue to be enough legislators in those states that understand the fiscal reality - that it will cost counties and municipalities, and they still won't become "no-kill" overnight as the movement professes.  While the battle may have ended for current sessions, the war for sound animal welfare practices and fiscal responsibility is not over.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

No-Kill Delaware Needs Accounting 101

I'm sure there are followers of No-Kill Delaware that believe their rants, especially those regarding the stockpile of money that Kent County SPCA. I don't want everyone across the US to stream into our state looking for the Fort Knox of the Eastern shore or gold that the leprauchan has stashed at the end of the rainbow, so I think it's necessary to separate fact from fiction.

Today the following post appeared on No-Kill Delaware's Facebook page.

"This is the kind of creativity that we'd love to see at Kent County SPCA in order to increase adoptions of Pit Bulls. This kind of thing doesn't cost much, and of course KCSPCA has millions of tax dollars."
Below is also a screenshot of that post.

So let's examine the facts put out there by the brilliant financial experts at NKD.  Where do they get the notion that KCSPCA is sitting on millions of dollars?

Below is the balance sheet for KCSPCA ending 9/30/10.

KCSPCA Balance Stmt 9-30-10
 Looking at the balance sheet, yes Kent County SPCA has over $3.1 million in assets.  While NKD is probably sitting on the Facebook page proud of another quip, let's look at the detail of the balance sheet to see what's behind those numbers.  Of that $3.1 million, more than $2.4 million of those assets are in value of land, building and equipment, and only $585,212 in cash and investments.  Since land and equipment isn't the typical currency that will buy PSA time, I would say their claim that KCSPCA is sitting on millions that can be spent on a moments notice is clearly false. 

OK, so maybe I'll give them the benefit of the doubt since they also mentioned tax dollars and may be speaking from a revenue standpoint, so I will also include the revenue portion of the Income Statement below.  Yes, KCSPCA gets $2.76 million from all 3 counties in Delaware who contract with them for dog control services.  I think it's a good business assumption that the counties are paying to for KCSPCA to use those funds to have officers on patrol in their respective counties and a certain amount for care of the dogs picked up.  So while KCSPCA does get $2.76 million of funds from the counties, those funds are expected to pay for what the contracts intended - dog control.  Also, NKD needs to keep in mind that it's not like the counties write up a contract and pay them a large bundle of money at the time they sign the contract.  Funds paid under most contracts like this are paid on a monthly or quarterly basis, so that means that while KCSPCA may get $2.76 million for the year, since the money comes in to them under installments, they obviously never have millions on hand as NKD likes to so often imply.

KCSPCA Income Stmt (Revenue) 9-30-12
 So is NKD really so dense that they don't understand basice finance, or do they just spit numbers out and hope that people buy their spun tales?  I can't answer whether it is ignorance of basic financial principals, or whether it is distorting the truth to try and pirate donations away from KCSPCA to their rescue, but the numbers and basic business principals tell us alot. 

It also makes me wonder if NKD's lack of financial and business skills is the very reason that their new shelter, which was expected to open last year, is still not open.  Maybe the leadership of that shelter needs to figure out that you don't build a multi million dollar shelter that requires $750,000 to operate (based on their own proposal), when most years they only took in 100-200 thousand in donations.  One time grants and bequests are great, but operating effectively means having a fairly reliable revenue stream.  So the analogy is that they built their dream home on the hopes of getting the executive job, but when job didn't appear and the pay increase didn't come in, it's difficult to service the debt on the mansion.  It's not comforting that people haven't learned better from the housing crisis of the last several years.   Fancy houses or shelters are nice, but if you don't have the money to operate them once they are built, then maybe it's time for NKD and their associated shelter, to take a look at what they are lacking in financial and business knowledge and make changes that will help animals in Delaware instead of continually griping about others.  Just think NKD, if you gave up one ridiculous post a week, you would have time to take Accounting 101.