Rockford city leaders discussed ways to tackle a $10 million dollar budget deficit. One idea, Eyewitness News first reported on two weeks ago, included cutting $500,000 in payment to Winnebago County Animal Services. Monday evening, one Rockford Alderman suggested some ways to make that happen.
Many dogs and cats are housed at the Winnebago County Animal Services Shelter. The furry animals are waiting to be adopted and taken to a new home. However, depending on how they got there can be costly.
“I think what the city is asking, is that [don’t] have this system where the county pays for some people in the county, but tells the rest of us we have to pay a fee.” said Ald. Venita Hervey (D-5th Ward).
The city of Rockford is in line to pay half a million dollars this year for animals caught by Winnebago County Animal Services. However, for animals caught outside the city limits, the county pays for it. Ald. Hervey argues that since Rockford is within Winnebago County, it’s not fair for the city to pay up.
“We know that for example, they’ve sent people out, 10, 12, 13 times because of a dog that’s misbehaving,” said Ald. Hervey.
Each time animal services is called out in Rockford, the city foots the bill. Which adds to an already big budget deficit and something Ald. Hervey wants the city to cut off.
“Our city has huge problems, like a 10.2 million dollar deficit,” said Ald. Hervey. “Some things are going to have to give.”
Ald. Hervey says there are some solutions that could help alleviate this payment pressure.
“If a dog is barking, I’m sorry somebody else is going to have to deal with it,” said Ald. Hervey. “Maybe that’s a police call, maybe it’s code enforcement and the person gets cited for the parking dog.”
City and county leaders say they plan on meeting in the near future to discuss a more viable payment option for Rockford. Jim Beam with C.A.R.E. for P.E.T.S. suggests Animal Services drop off strays at other shelters in the area to help mitigate costs.
“The winning formula in most other communities, has always been for the municipal animal services to partner with non-profit humane groups to fill the gaps,” said Beam.
It’s unclear when Winnebago County Board leaders and Rockford City leaders will meet, but they hope to have a solution by the March 31st budget deadline.