CARE shelter concerned about $50,000 funding cut from Garfield County |

CARE shelter concerned about $50,000 funding cut from Garfield County

Maggie Niehoff and Jenna Mitchell hold two recently adopted Persian cats from the Colorado Animal Rescue shelter in Spring Valley.
Colleen O’Neil / Post Independent |

A $50,000 cut in funding from the Garfield County sheriff’s budget next year leaves the Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) shelter looking to make up the difference, especially as it searches for a new executive director.

Sheriff Lou Vallario said this week that he reduced funding for CARE and other parts of his animal control budget in answer to the county commissioners’ directive earlier this year to trim 1.4 percent from his 2016 budget in anticipation of even bigger cuts in 2017.

Commissioners are now busy reviewing what’s essentially a status-quo proposed general fund budget of $50 million for next year, including a roughly $19 million budget for the Sheriff’s Office.

With an expected significant drop in property tax revenues from oil and gas operations starting in 2017 due to the recent downturn in new drilling, the commissioners are asking all county departments to reign in spending starting next year.

“This reduction came from many different sources in my budget, including animal control,” Vallario explained in a recent letter to the commissioners responding to concerns expressed by CARE’s board of directors about the cut.

In addition to reducing funding for CARE from $390,000 this year to $340,000 next year, Vallario said he also reduced funding by $12,000 for the Divide Creek Animal Hospital south of Silt, which the county also uses for stray animal veterinary and temporary sheltering services.

The internal sheriff’s office animal control budget, which includes two employees and two vehicles, is also being trimmed by $15,000, he said.

On the flip side, because a majority of the county’s animal calls are on the west end of the county, Vallario said he is entering into a new $50,000 contract with the Rifle Animal Shelter to pay for services that are already being used there.

“The majority of our calls are in the west half of the county, and the growth in the county is more to the west,” Vallario said Tuesday during a follow-up budget discussion with the commissioners.

“We are trying to maintain a good relationship with CARE, and we do want to have a good animal control program,” he said.

When it comes to use of the CARE facility in Spring Valley between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, more than 50 percent of intakes are coming from Garfield County compared with other local jurisdictions, according to Tracey Yajko, behavior and training manager for CARE.

That includes transfers from the Divide Creek Animal Hospital, she said.

Yet the $340,000 from the county as proposed accounts for only about 46 percent of CARE’s $727,000 annual budget, Yajko said in a presentation to commissioners earlier this week.

Going into next year, she said the organization is also dealing with building maintenance needs and recently purchased a new transport vehicle.

And, as a nonprofit organization, CARE struggles to keep wages competitive with nearby county-run animal shelters in Eagle and Summit counties, Yajko said.

CARE board member Roger Sheffield said that’s also impacting efforts to hire a new executive director following the resignation earlier this year of longtime director Leslie Rockey, who left to join neighboring Colorado Mountain College’s Vet-Tech program.

“It does exacerbate the situation,” he said. “Our goal is to get someone who has some fundraising expertise … and at this point, cutting programs isn’t where we want to be.”

County commissioners indicated they would discuss during a budget work session next Tuesday the possibility of supplementing CARE’s funding with some of the county’s discretionary grant money.

“This is an important program for our community,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, adding it costs the county less to subsidize an existing program rather than building a county run animal shelter.

The commissioners will continue their review of an overall $125.5 million proposed 2016 county budget, including all funds, during hearings Tuesday with department heads.

In addition to the general fund, the proposed budget includes $24 million in spending for road and bridge operations, maintenance and projects, $22 million for the Department of Human Services, $5.5 million for the landfill, $3.4 million for public health and $8.6 million in various capital expenditures fund projects.

The commissioners are scheduled to review capital spending proposals on Nov. 3. Budget approval is slated for Nov. 16.

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