It’s been a mixed blessing for the Golden Belt Humane Society.
The society has battled to overcome a negative stigma that hung over it. There have been new board members, new volunteers and even a new director.
The result of this public relations push has been more public confidence, said Director Heather Acheson, who has been at her post since last October. That has meant more people entrusting their pets to the facility.
“People have responded to these positive changes,” Acheson said.
But, the influx of animals is taxing the society. Often, all of the kennels in both of its buildings are full, some with double or triple occupancy.
“We are continuing to grow,” she said. Now, she may be in need of additional resources.
In 2013, the society took in 1,080 dogs and cats. In the four previous years, the numbers climbed from 622 to 946.
At the current rate of intakes, she is projecting 1,500 for this year. So, Acheson has approached both the City of Great Bend and Barton County seeking a 5 percent increase in funding from each.
She went to the City Council and County Commission Monday. Neither governmental body has made a decision.
How it works
The Golden Belt Humane Society serves all of Barton County. A large share of its funding comes from a $5,833 monthly payment from Great Bend and a $4,060.50 quarterly payment from the county, Acheson said.
According to a budget report submitted to the Great Bend City Council, in 2013, the city contributed $70,571 and the county $12,188. The total revenue for that year was $183,423, with the balance coming from donations, memorials, fundraisers, shelter income, adoptions and other sources.
However, the total operating expenses for 2013 were $185,263. The society went into the year with a $33,101 ending balance and emerged with $31,270 remaining.
Great Bend is asked to pitch in more because the majority of the society’s work is done within the city limits, Acheson said. For example, of the 1,080 animals taken in by the shelter last year, 728 came from the city and 352 from outside of it.
In other words, in terms of governmental contributions in 2013, Great Bend pays 83 percent for 70 percent of the service/intake, and the county pays 17 percent for 30 percent of the service/intake, the director said.
Why the increase?
Acheson said with the increase in animals, she may need additional personnel. And, she would like to give existing staff a pay increase and, sometime down the road, offer benefits.
She said it is difficult to hire and retain good employees. A higher wage may make this easier.
Plus, the animal control vehicle needs to replaced. “It is starting to nickle and dime us,” Acheson said.
The old truck could stay in the rotation, but be used as a backup.
And, buildings need to be maintained. The newest structure was built in 2001 and is showing some wear.
Then there is the cost of taking care of the animals. The price of vaccines, medications and testing are going up as well.
But, the society does have a capital improvement plan in place that extends into 2017.
There is, Acheson said, a benefit from the increased goodwill in the community. “People are now wanting to help.”
Donations and memorials have increased and the fundraisers are more successful. These are important because they help supplement the budget by purchasing food and other items, she said.
In September 2013, the society went to the council seeking an additional funds for their 2014 budget for salaries, a new vehicle and building upkeep.
However, council members at the time had a number of concerns with the request. They referred to an agreement reached between the city and the society in 2005 where the society said it would clean up its act, report to the council regularly and provide regular documentation, adding they haven’t always followed through on the deal. At the time, GBHS was behind in its bills and had other planning problems.
Also in 2005, money was included to increase wages.
Before voting on any increase, council members wanted to see an accurate budget, an accounting of how the money will be spent, a capital outlay plan and a commitment to establish a reserve fund. They wanted to be assured the problems would not arise again.
The society never returned to follow up on this request. Instead, it waited until the new budget year.
In September and again this past Monday night, council members were concerned about the city was paying for more than its share.
City officials now believe they have seen improvements in the society’s operation.