Wednesday, February 16, 2011
City of Bryan Animal Shelter History and Future
In 1980, the cities of Bryan and College Station and Brazos County created a non-profit organization, the Brazos Animal Shelter, Inc. (BAS). The BAS was created to purchase or lease land and operate and maintain an animal shelter and associated equipment for the use and benefit of the public in Bryan, College Station, and Brazos County. In doing so, the non-profit entity addressed State statutes and local ordinances regarding the sheltering of stray, homeless, abandoned, or unwanted animals. Various chapters of the Texas Health and Safety Code provide criteria for animal shelters and animal control. Additionally, Chapter 10 of the City of Bryan’s Code of Ordinances provides animal shelter and animal control criteria. While the City of Bryan is obligated to abide by State statutes and local ordinances, the City is committed to providing quality care for animals.
Since about 1981, BAS has operated an animal shelter at 2207 Finfeather Road in Bryan on City of Bryan property. From 1980 through 2006, the Board of the Brazos Animal Shelter, Inc. was composed of three individuals: the two cities’ mayors (or city managers), and the Brazos County judge. The costs were shared by the entities based on an agreed formula. While the formula may have varied over time, essentially each entity paid a portion of the total cost based on the number of animals cared for during the prior year. If the income for all services was less than expenses, the shared cost to each entity was increased.
In 2006, the three entities decided to change the board composition and increased the number from the historical three positions to a 15 member board. The three entities each appoint two individuals for a total of six governmental appointees while the remaining nine members are appointed by the Board. The purpose of the larger Board was to increase citizen involvement with the hope of saving the tax payers money while increasing services and programs.
Since 2006, the Brazos Animal Shelter, Inc. supervised by the new board composition has provided the City of Bryan with sheltering services on a contract basis. During this time the sheltering charges to the entities have steadily increased without direct expansion of services to the City. That is, the City of Bryan continues to receive at least a three-day hold from BAS as it has historically since the early 1980’s. Contractually, the City of Bryan is paying for a single service – the three day hold, which may encompass other requirements based on the contract and State statute. Other services could include rabies observation and legal holds of animals for purposes such as a cruelty seizure or a criminal prosecution.
The historical annual contract amounts for the City of Bryan are: $127,279 (from Fiscal Year 2006 through Fiscal Year 2008); $138,734 (Fiscal Year 2009); $145,671 (Fiscal Year 2010); and, $299,184 (Fiscal Year 2011). The Fiscal Year 2011 contract amount increased the City’s cost by over 105 percent.
As the Fiscal Year 2011 contract was being discussed, the City of Bryan suggested an incremental increase over a two year period. As part of the incremental increase offer, the City of Bryan offered “partnership possibilities” for “capital projects, such as a new shelter,” along with assistance in marketing Brazos Animal Shelter, Inc. events and services. BAS counter-offered with an increase to Bryan’s fees by over 70 percent in Fiscal Year 2011 and to increase Bryan’s fees to $110.00 per animal in Fiscal Year 2012 or an increase of over 135 percent in just two years. In September 2010, the Bryan City Council opted to select BAS’ initial offer: a more than 105 percent increase from FY2010 to FY2011, which equates to a charge of $95.77 per animal.
Additionally, the BAS collects and retains fees set out by city ordinance, contract, or by service; fees include adoption fees, owner return fees, rabies quarantine fees, rabies vaccine fees, registration fees, and surrender fees. The BAS occupies and utilizes City of Bryan property, including the shelter facility, at no cost to the BAS. In total, the annual cost to citizens of Bryan including the contract amount and fees as listed above is at least $411,884, which does not include the in-kind contribution of the leased property. Depending on actual fees attributed to City of Bryan citizens, the cost could range closer to $500,000. At $411,884, the City of Bryan’s per animal cost is about $132.
As stewards of public funds, the City of Bryan staff and elected officials are obligated to review financial management practices. An increase of over 105 percent for a service or product should result in a prudent entity reviewing alternatives to be assured the best value is being achieved; value includes cost and service delivery or product quality. In the case of animal shelter services, the City of Bryan embarked on a review of services immediately after approving the Fiscal Year 2011 contract with BAS in September 2010. The review included a request for proposals (RFP), which was issued on November 22, 2010, to ascertain the possibility of other service providers. The review also included evaluating the possibility of providing services internally.
Goals of the review include maintaining quality services while better controlling future costs. That is not to say costs may not increase, but the City of Bryan must be better able to control cost increases of over 100 percent in a single year. Additionally, the City needs to be better able to anticipate increases, which will be beneficial during budget preparation. As for services, the City’s desire is to continue to provide quality services, including foster programs, adoption programs, education programs, and low-cost spay/neuter programs for restricted income individuals. Ultimately, the City desires to provide quality services, have better control over cost increases, and reduce the euthanasia rate. All are goals that will require the community’s support and participation.
Last month, the Bryan City Council appointed a seven-member Animal Shelter Advisory Committee and tasked the Committee with reviewing animal sheltering alternatives. On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, a Subcommittee (of this committee) made a recommendation to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee-as-a-whole. The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee unanimously accepted the Subcommittee’s recommendation to reject the proposal received through the RFP process from CARE Corporation and to recommend to the Bryan City Council to pursue the possibility of a City operated shelter.
The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Bryan City Council for consideration and final action as early as March 8, 2011.
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