Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Costs of CAPA Continue To Rise Substantially

We've known for some time that CAPA and "no-kill" were costly based on the impact that it had on our animal shelter balance sheets.  While the costs continue to impact our shelter financials (or at least the ones who have updated financials on Guidestar), the costs are now ever increasing for the state, county and city taxpayers.

State Costs 

As a result of extreme drama and chaos that was created when our legislature and governor passed CAPA, a task force was setup to try to fix the mess that was made by state officials.  The task force, which was obviously handpicked by the same people who brought us CAPA, decided that our state needed a new Office of Animal Welfare which is under Public Health within Department of Health and Human Services.

"Mr. Carroll inquired about the funding of the Office, and Senator Blevins estimated the ideal structure presented would require a budget of under $500,000 a year." - Task Force Minutes 2/21/13

Amusingly, this office was setup in the typical underhanded manner that we've seen with other bills in our state by sneaking their budget into last years budget bill epilogue rather than creating the office with legislation.  This allowed our legislature to have DHSS begin hiring the people they want and then they could pass the necessary legislation this year without a fiscal note and who could say no to the legislation once everyone was hired. A nifty little underhanded scheme you will only see in Delaware politics.

So this year the legislation has passed both the house and the senate, and I'm sure will create a nice little photo op for everyone involved when the governor signs the bill just like CAPA did, even though the office had already hired people months earlier.  But at least the office will now have some authority to do something.

One surprise about this office that did appear in this years budget bill is the fact that this new office of 5 people is going to cost over $200,000 more than estimates just a year ago.  This was especially surprising given the fact that our budget process has been quite contentious this year with all kinds of new taxes proposed and only a couple of those new taxes (or new fee increases as they like to call them) survived in this election year. 

One possible explanation is that many of the handpicked members of the task force made claims of wanting a veterinarian to be part of this office (which few of us believed), since part of the office's duties will be to ascertain whether a shelter violates CAPA, and determining whether a shelter veterinarian's medical judgement that an animal is suffering sufficiently for euthanasia was correct. As it turns out, no veterinarian was hired. So maybe part of the cost increase is to contract out for a veterinarian to review records and make that judgment without the animal in their presence, since the office could be at risk of violating veterinary medical practice laws if their non-veterinary employees made those assessments. $200,000 would give the state sufficient funds to ensure they can buy the opinion that they want, whereas a state employee would be protected from the wrath of our "no-kill" senators under state employment rules. It would certainly provide our "no-kill" political players with a great deal more leverage to get the answers they want.

Local Contracts

This past week has been a flurry of activity when it comes to the local contracts as well.

As some will recall, just a couple years ago the Delaware SPCA decided to leave the dog control business for the city of Wilmington. The contract in 2011 was $252,000, and Delaware SPCA said the choice was because it cost $353,000 to handle the contract.  The city then raised the contract to $355,000 to keep the Delaware SPCA under contract, but that was just a temporary fix and Delaware SPCA did eventually give up the dog control contract which points to fact that the issue isn't just about money, but whether they could remain "no-kill" if they continued to stay under contract.  As a result, the city of Wilmington is now paying $600,000 a year to First State Animal Center and SPCA (formerly Kent County SPCA) to handle that the contract.

Kent County
In 2011 the contract for Kent County was $829,000 for dog control.  Later in 2012 they negotiated with First State Animal Center, and with less hours and other changes in the terms of service, the contract amount was lowered to $758,000.  But as alot of the "no-kill" drama began to impact the shelters costs with never ending investigations, the costs of employees continually pulling records, and lawsuits, the shelter eventually walked away from the contract when negotiations went sour and as a result we suffered through the Safe Haven debacle back at the contract level of $829,000. That contract bankrupted Safe Haven within a year and a half.  This week the contract was approved in Kent County for $2.68 million for 3 years ($893,000 per year), but as a result of the Safe Haven mess, the county also handles it's own code enforcement.  


I know the other 2 county contracts have been negotiated as well, but I haven't seen the numbers for those counties yet.  As you can see in the summary below, the costs continue to increase, and sadly we really haven't seen any improvements for the animals or the residents of our state.

We continue to see issues with dangerous dogs and residents continue to be inundated with cats due to the closed shelter doors.  There was a story recently that highlighted an 84 yer old war veteran in Sussex County that Safe Haven talked into keeping cats on his property, but in Safe Haven's typical incompetent fashion they only spayed and neutered a small number of the cats. As a result this gentleman now has over 30 cats that he is feeding. Fortunately the cats in his care are doing well, but the question is - what happens to the cats if something happens to him at his age?  But of course we will never get answers to those questions, just more political games, more costs, more drama, and more excuses.  That is the "Delaware Way". 

State Summary:  
2011 - $0
2015 - $700,000

Wilmington Summary:
2011 - $252,000
2015 - $600,000

Kent County
2011 - $829,000 (FSAC also handled code enforcement)
2015 - $893,000 + county cost to handle code enforcement themselves