Supervisors OK county Animal Services fee hikes to ensure agency recovers costs

0
19
Diane Sieker photo

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a series of fee increases for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services to impose on the 15 cities it serves, Tuesday, Jan. 8, ostensibly to ensure that the deficit-plagued agency recoups what it spends.

“This has been a six- to eight-month process, developing formulas to address budget shortcomings and recover our costs,” Allan Frusys, director of Animal Services, told the board. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s something that we’ve failed to do. Now, we’re moving the department to full cost recovery mode.”

Rancho Mirage resident Brad Anderson expressed opposition to the hikes, noting that the expenses borne by each city will be passed on to residents, like him.

“For everybody who has and loves animals like I do, charging more isn’t the answer,” he told the board. “I’d say lower prices so more people will comply (with spay/neuter, licensing requirements). If the fees are reasonable, I think more people will comply.”

Supervisor Karen Spiegel, who joined her colleagues in the 4-0 vote – Supervisor Kevin Jeffries had stepped out of the chamber – in favor of the increases, said the department had little choice but to push fees higher for the sake of ongoing “services to the community.”

The Department of Animal Services ended the previous fiscal year nearly $1.5 million in the red. It has contended with cyclical deficits for years.

Fees charged to so-called contract cities represent 70% of departmental revenue, officials said.

Some of the fees will be increasing by double-digit percentages, and others will be entirely new.

Drusys said that in the past, the department did not charge its client cities for wildlife animal impoundment and dead animal retrieval. However, those services will now cost $138 and $70, respectively.

Fees to process licenses for unaltered canines will go from $17 to $25, and for altered ones, $100 to $120, according to agency documents.

Spay and neuter fees for dogs will rise from $85 to $100, and for cats, $40 to $55.

The hourly rate for animal control officers serving contract cities will be elevated from $61 to $83 – expenditures that reflect base salaries and benefits costs, except for pensions, which the county will continue to bear, documents showed.

Flat impoundment fees at the county’s four shelters – in Blythe, Jurupa Valley, San Jacinto and Thousand Palms – will be replaced with per day charges of $20 for the first 10 days.

All fees will be subject to inflationary adjustments annually.

Drusys and his staff said that the department held in check actual recovery costs for some actions, compromising on the amounts to spare the contract cities even greater fee requirements.

The newly approved fees take effect in 30 days.