Doggone It, Burien Needs A New Plan For Animal Control
When King County stops providing animal control services for 35 suburban cities on July 1, pets will still stray from home and get lost, and dangerous animals will still roam about in some neighborhoods.
Now how to replace these services â€“ field control, sheltering, and licensing â€“ is yet another challenge facing cash-strapped cities as King County, with even greater budget woes, continues to cut more programs.
All five Highline-area cities currently receive varying levels of animal control services, which have been provided on a regional basis by the county since the 1980s. In recent years, however, the county has subsidized this system with more than $2 million annually from its general fund to cover these costs.
Looking for ways to fill this pending void, a joint cities-county work group including eight suburban cities â€“ SeaTac and Tukwila among them â€“ has spent the past three months developing a new regional model for humane animal control services.
That plan was officially proposed on April7, and presented to the Burien City Council for its consideration on April 12.
Ken Nakatsu, King County animal services manager, told city lawmakers the plan includes economies of scale and financial incentives â€œfor cities that promote public health and safety, animal welfare and customer service, and help contain costs for all participants over time.â€
The cost to Burien would be about $163,000 a year, Nakatsu said.
Mayor Joan McGilton voiced concern about where Burien could find another $163,000, noting that amount equals â€œthe entire city social services budget.â€
The plan would divide the county into four animal control districts, each of which would be staffed by at least one officer a day, and would utilize the existing animal shelter in Kent, he continued. The work group hopes to find volunteer shelter director, in addition to volunteer caretakers, to hold costs down.
A field sergeant, an animal cruelty sergeant and a three-person call center with after-hours dispatch through the King County Sheriffâ€™s Office would support all four districts.
Nakatsu noted that while the county would administer a single pet licensing system, the license fees collected from residents of a city would be credited back to that city against its share of the program’s cost.
With pet licensing revenue from fees and related fines currently covering about 60 percent of the cost of the proposed regional service model, he said participating cities would be responsible for about $4.1 million for the remaining expenses â€“ or about $1.9 million after license fees are credited back.
King County would provide transition funding totaling $325,000 for the second half of this year and $650,000 in 2011 for cities above the median cost for these services, including Burien, SeaTac and Tukwila.
Burienâ€™s cost would be an estimated $283,000 annually. After the city got back an estimated $180,000 in license fees and other revenue, it would have to cover a shortfall of approximately $163,000.
Councilman Jack Block Jr. said he thinks Burien â€œcan find a better and more cost-effective way to deliver these services.â€ Block said he is concerned about the cost of enforcement when the transition funds from the county run out.
The city council will discuss the proposed plan for animal control services again at their April 26 meeting. Initial statements of interest from cities are needed by the county by April 20, and all participating cities need to sign a contract to join this regional services system before June 30.