Saturday, June 27, 2015

Pet Projects 2016 - Even With Huge Budget Shortfall Projected Next Year

CAPA Bandages Are Costly

For those who've watched the mess in Delaware that was created by CAPA in recent years, I'm sure you already figured out that in Delaware we don't have a real state legislature that passes laws with fiscal notes that explain how taxpayer dollars are going to be spent.  Instead, our legislators hand out the money then do a patchwork of 'legislation' that attempts to fix the messes they've made in previous years, . Let's just say that Barney Fife and Goober could be legislators in Delaware and they wouldn't be the most foolish people in the room.

That being said, once again we see a similar process taking place as occurred with the formation for the Office of Animal Welfare in Delaware 2 years ago.  Basically the legislature is budgeting another $3 million to the OAW to setup dog control.  Keep in mind that these positions won't be filled on day 1, so this budgeted amount is likely only a portion of what the budget will end up being.  Even more worrisome is the fact that since the new section under the Office of Animals Welfare is not empowered by legislation to perform any animal control duties at this point, we have to question how this large sum of money will be spent.

It will also be interesting to see what costs are also tacked onto the Bond Bill for this new section when the Bond Bill is finally revealed at the very end.

Can you imagine if a private entity operated like this?  Shareholders would wonder what kind of drugs the CEO was on.  But this is unfortunately a repetitive process that occurs in State of Delaware government and truly shows how fiscally irresponsible our state leaders are.

Below is a screenshot of the budget bill that came through today, and a screenshot of the proposed budget from the Part 2 of the OAW recommendations previously release.

2016 Budget Bill - HB225

OAW Estimated Budget - Part 2 Recommendations

Let's not forget that dog control costs had already increased 35% from 2010 when CAPA was enacted through 2013, and we now have less services as a result of CAPA. That was also before the additional costs for the Office of Animal Welfare were incurred.
"Since the transition from state-managed animal control to county-managed animal control in 2010, the cost for animal-related services has increased 35%, while animal control services have eroded significantly." - OAW Part 2 Recommendations

Below is the actual epilogue language that goes along with the $3 million dollar pet project handout.

Counties Continue To Foot The Bills At State Worker Levels

As you can see, the counties will still be footing the bill for this endeavor that will now have staffing at the higher cost state salaries, that will also include costly state benefits and retirements.  While the state makes the statement that they "will work with the counties and city to define a fair pricing structure thereafter", you have to wonder why the counties would buy into this plan given the attempt by Senator Blevins and her friends actions in encouraging shelters to underbid contracts to put KCSPCA "underwater" which would allow them to drive up county costs.  Not to mention the previous slap to the counties faces when dog control responsibilities were pawned off to the counties by our governor and the legislature just prior to enacting the costly CAPA.

I can't imagine why county officials aren't speaking out against this.  Once KCSPCA, now known as First State Animal Center and SPCA gets rid of their animal control officers and disposes of dog control equipment, the counties will no longer have an alternative to fall back on like KCSPCA (FSAC) did when Safe Haven crashed and burned, or for Wilmington when Jane Pierantozzi's scheme for the 3 New Castle County non-profit shelters to house the animals for just that one city failed.  You would think that our counties would have learned their lesson by now.

And what is wrong with a state that already knows it will have a substantial projected budget deficit next year, estimated to be $200 million, yet they continue to take on more employees that come with long term costs in benefits and pensions that will extend years beyond the reimbursement by counties.  It's shameful that this kind of short term thinking by our governor and legislature will make it more and more costly to live and work in Delaware, to pay the costs for our own pets, and will likely even impact the decisions of companies who might consider coming in our state which would provide much needed better paying jobs. Obviously we aren't foolish enough to believe that this is the only program where these games are occurring.

Concerns Go Beyond Costs

As noted in my previous post, you have to wonder if this is in fact a bailout of the favored shelter of a few of our legislators.  As a result of the mess that was made with CAPA, every shelter in our state has suffered financial deficits and the Senate President's favored shelter is the closest to collapse.

But beyond costs, you would think that county councilmen / commissioners would also see the fact that they are going to continue to hear more and more complaints about the cat situation that continues to worsen, with the cat situation costing residents from hundreds of dollars per month to some cases in the thousands in repair costs for damages.

Not to mention the impact the state taking over dog control will likely have on public safety, particularly since we know the legislators putting this initiative forward are listening to a shelter director who is willing to put a "potentially dangerous dog" up for adoption and reference that dog as good with children and dogs. Hopefully the counties aren't under the misguided assumption that they will be released of liability when the inevitable occurs and a dangerous dog is released to the public. Title 9 still places the responsibility of dog control in the counties lap, and while the counties will be paying the state for their services, we all know that First State Animal Center took public safety far more seriously than the "No-Kill" shelter that has been driving legislators down this path. So don't be surprised if county taxpayers eventually pay the cost for lawsuits that result from injuries.

Lastly, county officials should ask for a comprehensive plan for what will occur if all the shelters that are contracted with the state are full.  Will all the counties end up in the same position as Kent County was 2 years ago and end up having to pay for these animals to be warehoused at boarding kennels?  When Safe Haven did it, the kennels ended up eating the costs when Safe Haven went bankrupt, but we all know who will end up footing the bill if the state does the same - the counties.

Or will the state merely not pickup dogs like we also saw with Safe Haven and other communities dealing with "No-Kill"?  As we saw when Safe Haven had dog control, with their "partner" shelter Faithful Friends, that it was not just more dangerous for residents and their pets, it's also a liability issue for the counties, and a drain on county services dealing with the complaints that result.

I'm not looking forward to dog control by an office taking advice from Faithful Friends, since we've already seen that failure once before with Safe Haven, but the one good thing is that it just adds to the taxpayer bill for future posts that will help keep CAPA out of other communities.  Once again our pain will at least be someone else's gain, but sadly that will likely come at a cost for the animals that end up left abandoned on our streets just so our legislators can pretend they aren't dying. And the only other bright side is that we'll also have the ability to see what shelters receive payments under the state checkbook with this money in coming years, which could assist us in our collusion complaints to federal authorities.

I sure hope Delaware residents have their checkbooks ready and pepper spray ready for round 2 of Faithful Friends influenced dog control.  While Safe Haven only lasted 18 months, this initiative will be around for a while because it will eliminate competition for dog control so that it can be paid for on our taxpayer dimes without competitive forces keeping the costs in check.