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For humane society, Janesville is biggest contract

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Jake Magee
Thursday, December 7, 2017

JANESVILLE—As it begins designing a new facility, about 10 percent of the budget for the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin hangs in the balance with Janesville city administrators.

The humane society contracts with 23 of Rock County's 28 municipalities to take in and care for stray animals. Its biggest contract—$125,000 with Janesville—is at risk after Janesville officials issued a request for proposals for other organizations to bid on the city's animal control contract.

Only the humane society entered a bid by the Wednesday deadline, but Janesville has yet to award a contract.

Janesville accounts for about 1,000 of the animals at the humane society every year. That's about 40 percent of the humane society's strays and 25 percent of all animals the humane society cares for. The next-biggest contracts are with Beloit for $97,850 and the town of Beloit for $17,000, said Brett Frazier, humane society executive director.

The request for proposals has paused the nonprofit's 2018 budgeting process. The loss of $125,000 would make finances tighter for an organization that already runs a tight operation, Frazier said.

"If we were to lose $125,000 out of our budget, things don't get cheaper. The heat is still going to cost $24,500. The microchips are still going to cost about $11,000," he said. "We'd have to figure, 'How do we shrink an already lean operation into an even smaller budget?'

"The whole things fall apart if people start pulling out different components of our funding mechanism. It's a domino effect, and we're no good to anybody if we're out of business," he said.

Humane society tax documents obtained by The Gazette show the organization is growing.

For at least the past four years, the number of humane society employees and volunteers has steadily increased.

In 2013, the humane society had 27 employees and 100 volunteers. By 2016, those numbers had grown to 51 and 263, respectively, according to the documents.

Frazier said the humane society had 30 employees this year.

"There are people in this building who put in a lot of extra time. There are a lot of people in this building who have a lot of slashes after their title, and everybody does this work because they love it and they feel good about it, and every year we have to replace a lot of those people because the wages we pay, in some cases, are eclipsed by wages that you can find somewhere else," he said.

Frazier said he's proud the humane society pays employees more now than it did years ago, when many jobs paid only minimum wage.

Over the past four years, the number of pet adoptions grew from 918 in 2013 to 2,075 in 2016, according to the federal tax forms.

The humane society's revenue and expenses also have grown. Its revenue and expenses in 2013 were about half of what they were in 2016, according to the documents.

About $647,000 of the humane society's $1.11 million in 2016 expenses went to salaries, other compensation and benefits. Frazier made just over $72,000 last year, not including benefits. In 2014, his first full year as executive director, he made $65,252, according to the forms.

About $881,000 of the humane society's $1.21 million in revenue in 2016 came from donations, grants and fundraising. About half its revenue comes from donations and fundraising, and the humane society has done less fundraising recently than past years, Frazier said.

"It's tough. If you look at the bottom line every year, I think you see an organization that is operating responsibly, is managing its resources well, and that's certainly true," he said.

"The flip side of that is that if you asked our staff, 'What would you do if we had an extra $100,000 in the budget?' we would have $300,000 worth of excellent ideas," Frazier said. "There are things we deliberately do not do and do not have because we can't afford it."

The humane society annually budgets about $35,000 to be donated by the estates of residents who leave money to the humane society in their wills. Some years, the humane society gets nothing from estates. This year, it received more than $300,000, Frazier said.

The humane society's board decided years ago to set aside revenue from estates, which are one-time revenue sources, for one-time costs, such as buying a new vehicle. By saving estate revenue, the humane society has enough money to buy the parcel south of Janesville where it plans to build a new facility, Frazier said.

The humane society's building at 222 S. Arch St. is small and needs renovations. Officials decided to build a new facility rather than fix their existing one, he said.

The project is expected to cost $4.5 million. Fundraising will kick off next year, Frazier said.

The land along County G where the humane society wants to build costs $220,000, and officials plan to close on it Thursday, Dec. 21, he said.

The humane society doesn't have a lot of excess revenue, but what there is goes into a fund balance. The humane society could use some of that money when building its new facility, Frazier said.

Humane society officials spent Wednesday visiting area human societies to get ideas for how to best design their new facility.



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