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.