Council member Chad Lewis fears a nearly $30,000 proposed cut in city funding for the local humane society could tax the organization's ability to handle Rapid City's animal issues.
Lewis raised those concerns as the city council on Monday reviewed its last round of initial budget talks that centered on community investments, which includes money for the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Dahl Arts Center, Journey Museum, Working Against Violence Inc. and the Humane Society of the Black Hills.
The council has been reviewing departmental reports since Mayor Sam Kooiker proposed a $152.6 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The proposed budget is up nearly $15 million over last year's $137.8 million budget.
While most of the city’s proposed 2014 community funding remains unchanged, Kooiker's budget called for a $27,832 cut to the Humane Society.
“It would hurt us, but we would get by,” said Jacque Harvey, executive director of the Humane Society of the Black Hills, adding that the group had asked for a 3 percent increase in funding.
Lewis said the proposed cut could ultimately lead to more money being spent on the police department, which would have to pick up the slack.
"I think the (police) are busy enough as it is," Lewis said.
The recommendation for cutting funds comes from Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender, who wants the organization to be more self-sustainable.
“Really, it’s a question of the value of the services versus the expense,” he said.
Allender said the police department handled about 2,000 animal calls last year and that the proposed cut wouldn’t call for more police services.
Council member John Roberts noted the number of animal calls in Ward 4 and said that community funding cuts shouldn’t be limited to just the Humane Society.
“If we are going to cut, we should cut across the board,” he said.
Kooiker's budget allocates a total of $250,000 for animal control. The Humane Society’s total budget is about $1 million with about $750,000 of that being privately raised, according to the group.
Harvey said the Humane Society handled 1,892 animal calls from January to the end of June, issuing 125 warning and 13 citations. She said the group responded to 1,264 calls for animals at large, 177 welfare checks and 153 barking dog calls.
By the end of July, in a seven-month period, Harvey said about 1,400 dogs and 1,200 cats had been taken in by the organization.
“I can tell you we don’t know what fundraising will be like next year,” said Curtis Fischer, Humane Society president. “We don’t know exactly what might have to be done.”
Fischer said the group is also facing a $150,000 heating and ventilation system upgrade that would further tax its resources.
The council requested that the organization itemize what the city’s drop in funding would mean to the group and present that information to the city’s Finance Department.
“I think it’s imperative that you make your case to this group,” Council member Jerry Wright said. “If there are no negative impacts, it’s an easy cut.”
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Working Against Violence Inc., the city's domestic abuse center, would see an increase of $70,000 to $100,000 from the city.
The funding is a sizable increase over last year, when the city provided just $30,000 to the group.
"We're honored that the mayor and council have supported WAVI and recognized the quality of our work, the good things we are doing and the need for the program," said executive director Mary Corbine.
Corbine said the program helped more than 2,000 area women and children last year, with 553 of them staying at the organization's emergency safe shelter for a total of more than 10,000 combined days.
"The emergency safe shelter is a large part of our budget," Corbine said.
She said the shelter is staffed 24 hours a day and offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, while providing meals, transportation, security, legal help and emotional support for women and children that have been victims of domestic abuse.
Dahl Arts Center
The Dahl Arts Center would see a 2 percent rise in funding of around $4,000, which covers maintenance and upkeep costs, according to executive director Pepper Massey.
The proposed budget would allocate about $215,000 overall to center.
"The misconception with the city’s funding and the Dahl Arts Center is that it’s used for programming," Massey said.
Since the 2009 expansion of the building, Massey said various equipment warranties have expired leaving an increased need for general maintenance funds.
"If we’re looking at the same amount of money as in the past, we’re looking at shortfalls," Massey said. "We have to keep it clean and safe, so that’s what the city takes care of.”
The Journey Museum would also see a 2 percent increase in city funding, equaling $6,500 for a total of about $331,000 in city funding.
The money covers utilities, liability insurance and general building maintenance.
The Rapid City Council will recap its initial budget reviews during a special session on Wednesday and set future dates for further budget discussion.
The city’s Legal and Finance Committee will review the budget for the first time on Wednesday.