MOORLACH UPDATE — Animal License Fees — June 11, 2014

Yesterday morning, before the Board reviewed the proposed $5.4 billion annual budget, which dips into reserves to be balanced, the discussion of funding animal care was addressed. The taxpayers subsidize a considerable portion of this critical service, but dog owners must also pay their share, as they are the direct beneficiaries. The reason for licensing dogs is to ensure that they receive rabies shots, which is an important public health concern. The fees charged by Animal Care Services have not been raised since 2008 and the proposed net increase is lower than the rise in the Consumer Price Index over this same period. Both Supervisor Bates and I requested that the Performance Audit Department make a thorough review of Animal Care and determine a strong short-term and long-term fiscal plan for this department. The Voice of OC covers the topic in the piece below. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Animal Care — May 6, 2014, MOORLACH UPDATE — Walter D. Ehlers Day — May 7, 2014, and MOORLACH UPDATE — USO @ JWA – May 10, 2014.

The Board also approved the proposed budget. In my closing remarks, I observed that future Boards will be squeezed by four pressures. The first is that the median value of Orange County homes is much higher than the rest of the nation by some two-and-one-half-times. I see this as a sign of great location, great business climate, and great government. However, being so high above the median may indicate a leveling off of residential real estate values in the near future. As property taxes represent some 90 percent of the County’s net county cost budget, this will limit future income growth. The second concern is the ever increasing annual payments to the state of California to pay back our property taxes that were categorized as Vehicle License Fees, until the entire $150 million is reimbursed in five years. The third is the continued pressures from the defined benefit pension plan and its annual contributions. The final was the desire to maintain a certain level of reserves. Trying to balance these forces will not be an easy chore. I wished Supervisors Nelson and Spitzer well as future budgets will continue to be difficult annual exercises.

County Supervisors Hike Host of Animal License Fees

By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Orange County supervisors Tuesday approved a series of fee hikes for animal licenses, businesses that deal with animals and residents who have their animals impounded on a 3-1 vote.

Supervisors also called for a comprehensive study aimed at better focusing the county’s regional strategy around animal control and shelter construction.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer dissented and Supervisor Janet Nguyen was not present for the vote.

In all, the new fee structure is expected to generate more than $10 million in annual revenues for countywide animal control efforts. The remainder of the agency’s $17 million budget will be largely funded through city and county contributions.

Officials had cast the votes – which came during the county’s annual budget deliberations – as a fork in the road. If the fees were not increased, the county system would have begun a path toward disintegration.

That was not something that Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson wanted.

“This was a huge victory,” Nelson said. “I’m not going to go out of any business line that should be provided on a regional basis.”

Spitzer said he did not support raising fees, saying “I don’t want to raise fees on pet owners who are following rules by licensing pets.”

Spitzer said he wanted to see an alternative approach, such as having the county cut costs by closing at least one or two days during the week given that weekends are higher demand.

Yet Supervisor John Moorlach echoed earlier sentiments that taxpayers should not overly subsidize pet owners.

“What you own, owns you,” Moorlach said. “Pet ownership is a real serious responsibility. I don’t know why those of us who have decided to not have pets should subsidize those who do.”

Given all of the different options on licensing, education and shelter issues supervisors also proposed having their performance auditor look into regional animal control efforts and come back to them with a broader look at how Orange County’s effort should look moving forward.

“We have not done a serious study of animal care since 2008, so putting a study together would be helpful,” said Supervisor John Moorlach, who proposed the performance auditor idea.

OC Community Resources Director Steve Franks said an update could be expected back to supervisors in about six months.

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