Palo Alto's financially troubled animal-services operation received a welcome boost Friday when the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a budget that provides $47,000 for the local animal shelter.
The one-time contribution, which was proposed by Supervisor Liz Kniss, comes at a time when Palo Alto is considering major changes to the facility on East Bayshore Road. The animal shelter has been providing services to Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills since 1993, but its operations were put in jeopardy last year when Mountain View opted to switch to the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority. The move will deprive Palo Alto of about $470,000 in Mountain View revenues.
City officials had initially proposed shuttering the shelter altogether and outsourcing animal services to another agency. But this proposal was ultimately rejected by two City Council committees, each of which recommended keeping the shelter open but exploring ways to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditures in the next few years. The debate over animal services has also prompted an outpouring of grassroots support for the local shelter and the formation of a new fundraising group, Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter.
Though the gift from the county doesn't solve the city's animal-services quandary, it reduces by 10 percent the shelter's gaping financial hole. Kniss, a former Palo Alto mayor who is now running for her old seat on the City Council, characterized the allocation as a way to give the city some breathing room as it transitions to a different operational model for animal services.
"Animal Services are very important to the community, and in light of recent events Palo Alto needs some time to revamp the services and budget," Kniss said in a statement.
The newly passed $4.1 billion budget also includes funding for a variety of nonprofit groups and organizations focusing on safety-net services. Recipients of county funding include the Community Mammography Access Program, which serves low-income women in community clinics; the Sunnyvale Community Services Agency and the West Valley Community Services Agency, which provide food and emergency assistance to their communities. The budget also restores $379,154 to the Social Services Agency's Senior Nutrition Program.
"Many of the programs I support focus on prevention," Kniss said in a statement. "By investing in such services now, we avoid worse prospects down the road, in both monetary and human terms, of trying to address community needs."