Desperate times call for slashing Janesville’s animal control budget by half.
But these times aren’t desperate.
The city recently learned the state plans to give it $500,000 each year for the next five years in addition to the usual amount Janesville receives in state aid.
The money isn’t a “gift” so much as it is compensation for Janesville getting shorted because of a flawed funding formula. Despite the pending cash infusion, Janesville’s coffers are not overflowing.
With the additional funds, Janesville officials are talking about adding police and firefighter positions next year. In that light, a proposal to reduce its animal control budget from $125,000 to $62,500 seems ill-timed, especially if the consequence would be more stray animals roaming the city.
From the perspective of the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, the city already is getting a bargain. The city has paid the same amount, $125,000, since 2014, though the humane society must solicit donations to cover the total cost of managing the strays.
So far as we know, city officials aren’t alleging the humane society has been misspending funds, and certainly if officials have concerns about how the humane society operates, they should make their case. There is, after all, nothing wrong with holding contractors accountable. If some city officials believe the humane society could save money by managing strays differently, those officials should put forth ideas.
Cutting the animal control budget would only be wise if city officials have in mind a plan for continuing services at the current level, but they don’t seem to. Rather, officials are contemplating trade-offs, such as having the humane society handle only dogs, presumably leading to more stray cats. While dogs get most of the bad publicity for attacks, stray cats carry disease and can become neighborhood nuances. They can dart in front of vehicles and cause accidents, for example.
City officials have said they want to spend the $500,000 from the state to hire more police officers and firefighters, but the city should be able to find a way to do that without slashing animal control spending by half. Animal control is a public safety issue. If city officials feel public safety deserves a funding boost, they should take from other parts of the budget, not animal control.
With the city poised to pocket an additional $500,000 next year, it seems silly to talk about cutting a basic government service such as animal control.
Sometimes local governments must make painful budget cuts, but this shouldn’t be one of those years. Draconian proposals should be taken off the table.