San Jacinto Council denies contract rate increase to Ramona Humane Society

A surprise request by Ramona Humane Society to increase its recently signed two-year contract with the city of San Jacinto from $216,893 to $281,669.84 was rejected by the city council Tuesday, Sept. 25.

President of the Ramona Humane Society Jeff Shepherd and Bob Duistermars brought their request to San Jacinto City Manager Rob Johnson, Aug. 8, stating a need for more revenue from the city due to audited numbers of actual cost items. Shelter representatives requested a contract increase from of $62,776 annually. It was the second increase amendment asked by RHS and approved by council since Jan. 1.

Johnson said at the council meeting he had not yet received any financial data and a letter he requested from the RHS board. Although not in favor of the increase and without the letter, he forwarded the request to the council giving RHS an opportunity to explain the need for the latest contract increase and to get the council’s direction before proceeding.

The latest two-year contract with the Ramona Humane Society Shelter was signed in July 2016. The original two-year contract in 2010 was extended for another two years through 2012 and has continued successfully. The latest contract will run through Dec. 31, 2018.

Shepherd, in a PowerPoint presentation to the council, showed how the animal shelter’s expenses had increased significantly since it first began providing shelter and animal control services to the city in 2010. Shepherd showed the statistics about its successful spay and neutering program, decreasing intakes, microchipping and adoptions and the differences in the shelters costs in the past two years.

While, pleased with the shelter’s progress, the council questioned why RHS was making the request for a contract increase so soon after the contract’s last amendment in January.

Mayor Scott Miller said he did not understand why RHS was requesting yet another increase in the contract when it still has more than a year before termination.

“We believe that those numbers that are presented to us for contracted services are actual numbers that will actually exist all through that contract period,” Miller said. “It is very concerning when we have a contracted service come to us in the middle of the contract and tell us the numbers we were given, even though we were told they were audited numbers and the contract would last two years, but now we are finding out they were incorrect numbers and we we are being asked for more money.”

He said it raises “many questions.”

Shepherd admitted the numbers were incorrect, and their costs have “increased all around.”

Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz questioned the reason for the cost increases when intakes have gone down. She asked for the figures showing why the shelter’s cost has gone up with less animals needing care.

Shepherd apologized for not having more cost information for the council that evening. He did point out that even though the number of animals coming in has dropped and the euthanasia number has also dropped, the number of animals that are housed at the shelter is about the same and near its capacity.

Ruiz said, without that information she could not support the contract increase.

Mayor Pro Tem Alonso Ledezma said whatever happens the first thing is that “you have to honor the contract.” He suggested that cuts in the RHS staff might have to be made, if the costs are increasing as Shepherd said.

“We have to honor the taxpayers,” Ledezma said. “I hope you will honor your contract.”

Shepherd assured the council they will.

Councilman Russ Utz said he was concerned about the RHS income stream and how much was coming in from the licensing, adoption fees, promotions, veterinarian and medical fees.

“I understand your costs have gone up,” Utz said. “Like so many other council members have said, you did most recently give us a contract. I don’t know if we have enough information to make a decision tonight regarding whether or not we would support an increase.”

He did say the issue is “all about the animals” to which Shepherd agreed. Utz suggested that some sort of collaboration between the Ramona Humane Society and the nearby Riverside County Animal shelter could be explored.

Shepherd said he would agree with that if possible. Utz said he would help with that effort.

The council suggested that if RHS wanted to pursue the request, they should send the numbers requested and information needed to the city staff.

“We have to answer to the taxpayers,” Ruiz said.

“We are not going to approve any increase,” Miller said. “This council is making the decision to not take any action on this contract tonight and that you are going to honor the contract we have agreed to.”

Shepherd said RHS has every intention to honor the contract.

Councilman Andrew Kotyuk was absent from the meeting.

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