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An Unexpected Bite

The McCreary County Judge Executive’s Office received an unanticipated budgetary bite with the receipt of a $10,000 dollar quarterly invoice from the Corbin based Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter Inc., currently contracted to provide animal control shelter services to McCreary County.  The invoice was received at the end of June after the 2015/2016 annual budget had been finalized and approved.  This latest McCreary County invoice from the Shelter represents an increase of $2,500 per quarter over last year’s quarterly payments of $7,500. Total projected annual cost of contracting with the Shelter tallies in at $40,000 for the 2015-2016 fiscal year-up $10,000 annually from last year.

In addition to McCreary County, Clay, Knox, and Whitley Counties contract with the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter.  All of the counties, with the exception of Clay County, were hit with the unanticipated increase after their budgets were approved.  Clay County was already paying $40,000 annually in comparison to McCreary and Whitley Counties’ $30,000 each and Knox County’s $25,000.  This year’s billing saw all four counties reach the $40,000 mark.  Since she had not assumed her duties at the time contract rates were initially established, Shelter Executive Director Deanna Myers was unsure what criteria was used to set the previous rates.

In a lengthy meeting last week, officials from all four counties, including McCreary County Judge Executive Judge Stephens, met with representatives from the Shelter and the KY Animal Control Board.  Primary discussion revolved around the billing increase and complications from receiving the first invoice after fiscal budgets had already been approved.  According to budgetary procedure, an amendment is now required in order to pay the quarterly invoices.

Judge Stephens stated he intends, during this month’s regular monthly meeting, to ask the magistrates if they are OK with moving forward with the projected increase.  If agreeable, Fiscal Court will need to make a budget amendment to address the cost during a future meeting.

Apparently, Whitley County officials are standing by a decision to make their initial payment based on last year’s $7,500 quarterly payment. That amount had already been budgeted and approved for the 2015/2016 year prior to receiving the latest, increased invoice.

Speaking on behalf of Whitley County Judge Executive Pat White, Jr., Whitley County Project Director Amber Owens stated there is no plan, at least this year, for them to amend their budget to pay the increase.

“We did not receive the invoice until June 29,” Owens stated.  “We start our budget process early, and this year’s budget was already finalized.  With 9-1-1 fees down and other costs rising, there is simply no way for us to find the money for this unbudgeted increase.”

Knox County Judge Executive J. M. Hall could not be reached for comment.

According to Myers, there are three reasons why the rate increase is needed.  First, beginning in June 2016, all animals adopted through the Knox-Whitley Shelter will be spayed or neutered.  There has also been an increase in operating costs (electric, water, etc.) due to the larger, new facility which opened this past April, replacing the original shelter which was destroyed by fire nearly a year and a half earlier.  The number of shelter employees has also increased to six full time and one part-time.

The Shelter has projected a budget for next year of $240,000.  Although the facility receives donations and grants, it relies primarily on money received from contracting counties for shelter service as its only reliable source of funding.  Last year, the Shelter received approximately 6,000 animals from County animal control officers and residents.  According to Judge Stephens, McCreary County sent 800-900 dogs and cats to the Shelter in 2014.

The new, modern facility provides regulated space for 25-30 puppies, 25-35 dogs, and 25 cats and kittens. There is also a surgery room for spay/neuter and surgical needs.  Low cost spay/neuter services are offered.  To find out more about the Shelter and services offered, McCreary County residents are encouraged to contact the shelter at 1-606-526-6925.

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