Several dogs and cats are currently in Winnebago County Animal Services’ care. A majority of those animals come in because of calls from within the City of Rockford. Rockford pays for that service, but city hall’s considering cutting back on its contribution.
“The recommendation was to discontinue the agreement or find an alternative sustainable funding option for the services,” said Rockford’s City Administrator Todd Cagnoni. It’s one of many options Rockford’s appointed Finance Task Force is considering to balance a $10 million budget deficit.
“I don’t have any complaints with Animal Services. I just know we can’t afford the rate we are going. We just can’t afford it,” said Rockford 7th Ward Alderman Ann Thompson-Kelly.
The City’s contract with the County hasn’t been renewed since 2012. Based on previous agreements with Animal Services, Rockford continued to pay roughly $500,000 a year for services.
County leaders, however, think backing away won’t be a good a idea. “I’m not really sure that the Task Force really understands the extent of what we do for the city,” said Winnebago County Administrator Carla Paschal.
Paschal believes if the city decides to end the payment, it’s going to cost even more in the long run.
“They looked at this previously, if they were going to outsource it. The cost was significantly more than what the County is charging the City,” she added.
Thompson-Kelly isn’t worried. While she thinks cuts are necessary, she’s convinced the City will continue it’s partnership with the County.
Going forward, partnerships with non-profit animal organizations could make up the difference.
“I think that there needs to be more collaboration brought in with the non-for profits in our community, as well as being creative with the way the contract is written,” said Stephanie Hicks, Executive Director of Care for Pets. “There are a lot of other municipalities, they have contracts that have the services still and they are still staying in budget,” she added.
Rockford’s Finance Committee will be discussing more on the Task Force’s recommendations during Monday night’s City Council meeting.