LIHUE — With a room full of staff and board members behind her, Kauai Humane Society Executive Director Mirah Horowitz asked the Kauai County Council on Tuesday for a $110,000 increase in funding.
The humane society is requesting nearly $1.2 million for the upcoming fiscal year, and Horowitz says that’s a conservative estimate of what is actually needed.
“There’s not enough funding to adequately staff and fund everything,” Horowitz said.
She continued: “Our budget proposal with the mayor outlined $1.5 million of costs associated with fulfilling the contract as it’s written. We proposed doing it on a best effort basis of $1.2 million.”
Council members are hearing budget proposals on a daily basis for the next month from departments and contract holders. Horowitz spoke for about an hour in front of the council.
The county contract outlines the humane society’s responsibilities of animal control services, including rescue and response, investigations of abuse and neglect, injured animal and stray dog pick ups, and processing. Also included are housing, veterinary care and licensing.
The humane society has taken in 2,392 dogs and cats since the start of the current fiscal year, which began in July 2018. KHS has euthanized 732 animals so far this year (down 1,271 from the previous year), 487 dogs and cats have been transferred, 716 have been adopted and 407 have been returned to owner.
“I want the question when anyone walks into our shelter not to be ‘will we save this animal?’ but ‘how will we save this animal?’” Horowitz said.
Horowitz outlined seven areas of planned expansion and improvement, though the first would require an additional $185,000. That element is an affordable and robust spay and neuter program. Currently, surgeries cost between $60 and $125 for spay and neuter, depending on the size and type of animal.
“At one time we were able to offer free spay and neuter. We aren’t currently able to offer that and spay and neuter is something that’s currently excluded from the county contract,” Horowitz said.
Other goals include working out a clear fee structure for programs, services and infractions; partnering with the Kauai Community Correctional Center to pair inmates with animals; continuing a strong partnership with the hunting community; investing in volunteer tourism; and building affordable housing on the KHS grounds for employees.
Several council members questioned whether funding should be increased. Councilman Mason Chock pointed out it appeared fundraising has decreased.
Horowitz explained that decrease was actually a dip in the cash reserve from January 2017 to June 2017. According to graphics submitted to the county, that cash reserve dropped from about $225,000 to about $50,000 in that fiscal year.
“I wasn’t involved with the Kauai Humane Society at that time,” Horowitz said. “I think what happened was the executive director at that time was attempting to raise the level of care and operations and did it in a fiscally irresponsible way.”
KHS points out that the county contract has been “insufficient to cover actual costs for several years” in documents submitted to the council.
Those documents outline KHS running at a deficit for the last five fiscal years.
In FY2015, for example, the direct funding from the county was $760,000. Program revenues brought in $118,154 to make the actual funding for FY2015 $862,111. Expenses for that year were $940,876 so the deficit for FY2015 at $78,765.
That trend continued. The deficit in FY2016 was $29,905; the deficit in FY2017 was $83,608; the deficit in FY2018 was $126,510 and the estimated deficit for FY2019 is $156,711.
In total, the overall operating budget for KHS is about $3 million, with fundraising and donations making up what the county contract doesn’t cover.
“The Kauai Humane Society has been a great asset to the community,” wrote Kauai resident Christy Fujimori in a letter of support. “I feel that Kauai wouldn’t be the same without this organization.”
Other services provided by KHS and funded through donations are spay and neutering, animal housing and veterinary care beyond the initial 48 hours, cremation, adoptions, transfers, direct release, emergency boarding for community members in need, community education and outreach and volunteer opportunities.
The Kauai County Council will consider the presentation until they move on to their next phase in the budgetary process.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at email@example.com