Palo Alto approves staff cuts, fee hikes at animal shelter

City to increase fees for spaying and neutering; lay off two full-time employees

Palo Alto's animal shelter may have been saved from the chopping block last month, but the city's cash-strapped animal-services operation will soon see significant changes, including higher fees and fewer staff members, under a proposal the City Council approved Monday night, July 23.

In its final action before a month-long recess, the council unanimously approved a plan to raise fees for spaying and neutering by an average of 22 percent for residents of Palo Alto and its partner cities, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. For others, the fees would go up by about 50 percent. With the increase, the average fees would be $95 and $125 for residents and nonresidents, respectively.

The council also approved staff's recommendation to eliminate 2.5 positions from the 13-member operation -- a shelter supervisor, an animal-control officer and a volunteer coordinator. The lattermost position would remain in place for the coming year because of an anonymous $35,000 contribution.

The changes at the shelter are driven by Mountain View's decision to leave the partnership in the Palo Alto facility and to switch to the newer shelter operated by Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority. The move, which will become finalized this fall, will deprive Palo Alto of $470,000 in annual contributions.

Council members expressed regret Monday at having to reduce staff but agreed that the city has no choice.

"I wish we hadn't had to do this," Vice Mayor Greg Scharff said. "I think circumstances dictated it."

Councilman Larry Klein agreed.

"It's always hard to lay off good people," Klein said. But noted that the cuts must be made given that Mountain View is no longer in the picture.

"Our service area has been reduced so it's almost inevitable that we'd have some reductions since we're serving less people," he said,

Klein pointed out that the reductions wouldn't take place until Jan. 1, which means there is still a shred of hope that they can be averted if the operation raises enough money from donations. But City Manager James Keene noted that even if one-time donations provide a temporary reprieve, they would not obviate the need for the city to pursue permanent cost reductions.

"Obviously, what we need to achieve are ongoing structural savings," Keene said. "If we got some donations that can offset costs in a particular year, that would only delay decisions until there's a sustainable donation."

The changes, while significant, are a far cry from the city's earlier proposal to shutter the animal shelter and to outsource the entire animal-services operation. The plan, which staff recommended in the spring, triggered an outcry from local animal advocates and shelter volunteers, many of whom formed a new nonprofit group, Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter, to raise funds for the animal services.

Luke Stangel, president of the new nonprofit group, called the proposed fee increases "totally appropriate" but urged the council to reduce animal-control staff through attrition rather than through layoffs.

"Layoffs are more than a line item on a budget," Stangel said. "They have very real impacts."

In addition to raising fees, city officials hope to raise revenues in the local shelter on East Bayshore Road by extending hours of operation and more aggressively marketing the shelter's services. The hope is to increase the volume of spay and neuter surgeries by 25 percent.

Altogether, the city expects the higher fees for spaying, neutering and other services (including dog licenses, vaccinations and adoptions) to increase annual revenues by $185,349. Staff cuts would reduce expenditures by another $284,426.


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Posted by lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm

....and so the dismantling of city government by Keene and Klein continues only to be replaced by higher costing outsourced contractors managed by triple-digit salaried city management.

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Posted by Outsource more
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm

> "higher costing outsourced contractors"

Wrong. Read the article.

> Staff cuts would reduce expenditures by another $284,426.

The contractors are not only cheaper than the current city employees, but they are not part of a ridiculously generous, unsustainable pension program that will weigh down our kids and grandkids.

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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:14 am

In the long run outsourcing is always much more expensive and less productive. The US military has been outsourcing many of its functions to private contractors with an obscene level of waste, corruption and overcharging. One would think that experience would have taught us something.

Like this comment
Posted by Perplexed
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

Can one of you commenters please point out where this story (or any other information about the outcome of the PAAS Shelter issue) says or implies word one about contractors or outsourcing?

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Posted by karen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 25, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Keene and Klein should be the ones fired.

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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Why can't spay/neuter fees have min/max sliding scales based on the honor system?

One for member towns, one for non-member towns?

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Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Can anyone explain to me how the city council in the same evening can (1) say that the city's too poor to find $470,000 for the Animal Services (the fees that Mountain View used to pay) AND
(2) agree to spend over $4.3 MILLION dollars to reinvent the golf course?

WHAT a skewed sense of priorities!!

WHY can't some of the EXCESSIVE sum of money allocated to the golf course project be used instead for the Animal Services??

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Posted by TOMAS
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2012 at 8:03 am

lay off the the 2 employees now. lets start saving money now.

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Posted by Larry
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 26, 2012 at 8:06 am

Please lay off them now. Why wait until Jan1. There is no need for the number of employees working in this shelter.

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Posted by AnimalShelter Pal
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Will the shelter be opening more spots for volunteers to assist once the cuts have been enforced?

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Posted by don
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 28, 2012 at 9:24 am

Daniel you're comparing two different "businesses". An animal shelter is not the military. Can you cite a source that says the possible out sourcing would be more expensive? Or is it merely an opinion?

As an aside, I'll bet there are fewer customers for the golf course than for an animal shelter.

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Posted by tim
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 29, 2012 at 7:27 am

the shelter manager will do everything to keep the two position going. The shelter manager doesn't want to help the city help them. Lay off the two employees as soon as possible, so the city would start saving some money and be happy about it. Because we all know that the city just want money.

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Posted by Nike
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 29, 2012 at 7:43 am

I saw and spoke with an animal control officer last month and the officer was responding to emergency call. It was late at night and the call was for an almost dead rat. The officer told me that sometimes the calls they get are for rats, mices and other wild animals. Now the city is broke right, who is paying for the gas and when the animal control vehicle maintenance! Pay employees over- time to save an almost dead RAT, come on the more i learn about PAAS i really want to see it getting close down.

Like this comment
Posted by lacye
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 29, 2012 at 7:52 am

Well, the city doesn't care and PAAS wants to be different from other animal shelters. It sucks! I agree to pay my tax to help an injured dogs or cats, but for an almost dead rat. It is not right. I don't see any reason to pay an Animal Control Officer over-time to save an almost dead rat.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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