Employee furloughs among cost-saving moves Collier County is considering

Are you willing to pay more taxes to keep the pet adoption program and prevent the closure of three libraries?

See the results »

View previous polls »

Cut animal adoptions?

Citizens hear of proposal

— Collier County leaders struggled Monday deciding on next year's budget cuts.

One department head after another presented a bare-bones budget and stressed that more county workers would lose their jobs.

Also, commissioners were loathe to cut back on any health and safety services or financial reserves. As an alternative, commissioners asked if the county could save money by furloughing every employee.

Commissioners are considering two tax rates. One is millage neutral and would keep the tax rate at the current $3.14 per $1,000 worth of the property. The other is tax neutral, and would increase the tax rate to $3.60 per $1,000 worth of property.

They’re weighing a minimum $310 million general budget, and a $1.4 billion operating budget.

When commissioners return for budget talks today, they will consider furloughing every county employee one day each month, to cut back on layoffs.

“We don’t want to lose another employee,” Chairwoman Donna Fiala said.

The proposed furlough also would apply to administrative staff and commissioners, who are reviewing the plan on a department-by-department basis.

Hit by protests over library closures and the potential for euthanizing animals sheltered at Domestic Animal Services, commissioners spent hours trying to please everyone.

One agency that saw almost immediate relief was Collier County Domestic Animal Services.

In a letter to County Manager Jim Mudd, Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said he would provide free inmate labor to animal services next year and refund all money Animal Services has paid for the program using inmates’ assistance in the current year.

Hearing the news during the county budget meeting, Animal Services Director Amanda Townsend was delighted.

“Taking our sheriff’s generous offer, we would be able to make some adjustments,” Townsend said.

However, they’d still have to reduce staff by at least two full-time workers, she said.

Every department in the county was asked to cut its budget by 3 or 15 percent, as a response to the failing economy.

Domestic Animal Services’ 15 percent cut is equivalent to about $390,000.

Public Services Director Marla Ramsey said Rambosk’s donation may not be able to wholly preserve the adoption system.

Great public outcry resulted when it was discovered that dogs and cats would be euthanized if Townsend had to cut her budget.

Collier County resident Steven Wright said he believes the Animal Services department can save money and maintain the adoption program.

“I ask that (Animal Services) ramp up its adoption program,” Wright said. “Adoptions bring in income.”

Animal Services spokeswoman Camden Smith said the inmate program savings will amount to about $120,000 in the next fiscal year. For the current year, the inmate program was budgeted for $111,600, for a total of $231,600, but it is not known how either of the savings will be used in next year’s county budget.

Commissioner Frank Halas said if the community is that upset about dogs and cats, he’s surprised officials of the Humane Society, Naples didn’t show up Monday to say they’d take in more animals.

Townsend said the Humane Society works with the county shelter, but the Humane Society doesn’t euthanize animals. The county’s shelter does.

According to county statistics, 183 animals were euthanized in May. That’s a fairly consistent monthly number, based on the charts posted at the Collier County government Web site.

Payments made by Animal Services to the Sheriff’s Office paid for a deputy supervising the inmates, $1 for each hour of each inmate’s labor and all transportation costs.

In some instances, the deputy was paid overtime, Townsend said during a meeting of activists last week.

The fix wasn’t as fast or immediate for housing services director Marcy Krumbine. Her department maintains services with 75 percent of income in grants, and only 25 percent in general funds.

If she had to cut her budget by either 3 percent or 15 percent, she could only cut it from her 25 percent of general funds. If cut by 15 percent, 450 people would not be able to receive necessary services.

“Since April or May, we had to go to a waiting list for our services,” Krumbine said.

She’s seeing a new type of client. Formerly prosperous residents have lost their jobs, as well as their health insurance, she said.

For that reason, Halas felt that should probably call for an increase in Krumbine’s budget, he said.

Krumbine also got immediate relief. Her budget was approved with a 3 percent cut, giving her a $5.8 million budget. That includes reserve contingencies.

Parks and Recreation received a tentative boost with a tax neutral budget. The department might see a $2 increase in boat ramp fees, which would bring the fees up to $7, but commissioners will discuss that later when employees can present justification for the $2 increase.

Budget talks continue at 9 a.m. today at 3301 U.S. 41 E., County Commission chambers, third floor.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features