Shelter Deals with Funding, Other Concerns

Facing a money crunch, the Toccoa-Stephens County Humane Shelter board wants Shelter Director Jeff Roberts to put together a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Tuesday, the Shelter Board voted to have Roberts put together a six-month budget to present to the city and county governments at upcoming meetings.

City and county officials say that shelter operations are running well over what either local government agency budgeted for this Fiscal Year.

Toccoa City Commissioner and Shelter Board Member Gail Fry said that while the long term funding level needs to be looked at, the short term money issue needs to be addressed first.

“We also realize that the budget we were presented may not have been the budget it should have been because this is all new for us,” said Fry.  “We can look at it in the new budget year, but for the next six months, we have got to get through.”

Stephens County and Toccoa have each budgeted $142,000 for the animal shelter operation and $50,000 for animal control in Fiscal Year 2014, after the city added $40,000 to its shelter budget last month.

Toccoa City Manager Billy Morse said that he was told by the county that their figures were based off of a proposed total budget of $384,000 presented by former Shelter Director Bob Citrullo last November.

Morse said last month that even with the additional city funding, the city would have to budget another nearly $100,000 to meet shelter expenses at the current level it is spending.

Stephens County Commissioner and Shelter Board Member Dean Scarborough said that the cuts are going to have to come from all areas of shelter operations.

“County and city money is going to be limited to a certain point,” said Scarborough.  “We have got to have some major spending cuts within the next three months.”

Once Roberts finishes that six-month budget, he is expected to present it to both the city and the county.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s shelter board meeting also brought criticism from one of the board members.

Joan Allen said she is not pleased with some of the things taking place at the shelter.

“The shelter has become a new building for animal control and a clearinghouse for transfers to other shelters, not adoptions,” said Allen.  “We are not true to our mission or charter for a humane shelter.”

For example, Allen said that more efforts should be put into adoption places at places like Petsmart.

Some members of the public in attendance say they agree with Allen’s comments.

Others in attendance said that there are things being said about the shelter that are not true, while some others expressed concerns about the adoption process.

Multiple shelter board members, including Stanley London, said they if someone has specific concerns, they need to be brought forward in an appropriate manner.

“Take these issues to Mr. Roberts,” said London.  “Do not spread them throughout the community or the shelter.  Everybody is not going to be on the same page all the time.  That is reality, but we can work through these issues without the drama.”

Scarborough agreed, saying that if the shelter does not grow and move forward as an organization, it will collapse in front of their faces.