PAWS to raise municipal rates after bleeding more than $200,000 every year

Niceville residents currently pay about $420 per animal control call in the city of Niceville.

  • Councilwoman Cathy Alley pointed out that fact to the rest of the council after doing some quick math at the dais while listening to a presentation from Panhandle Animal Welfare Shelter (PAWS) director Tracey Williams.

PAWS, which provides animal control services to Niceville (and all of the other cities in Okaloosa County), says it needs to raise rates for the second year in a row in order to cover the costs of providing the service. 

PAWS came to the meeting in the chambers with the news that, in addition to the information, the city owes more than $15,000 on the bill for services from Fiscal year 20-21.

  • This was apparently due to some budgeting miscommunication between PAWS and the City of Niceville.
  • It sounds like it was on PAWS’ end as they had this issue with every other city in Okaloosa County. 

The new executive director of the organization says that the last director left the organization out of date, behind on paperwork and bleeding more than $200,000 every year.

  • The majority of that loss comes from providing animal control services.
  • Williams said that the board has “seriously discussed” returning to just an animal shelter and no longer performing an animal control function. 

The organization has cut staff from 42 to 25 in the last year alone. They currently have 6 animal control officers on staff who serve the whole County. 

PAWS provides the services for about $5.50 per citizen and plans to raise it about $1.00 per citizen for FY 21-22. Currently, the national average is closer to between $7.50 and $15.00 per citizen. 

Discussion about how the pricing for each city went into depth – after the director mentioned that Niceville’s stricter codes and ordinances for animals kept animal calls within the city limits way lower than most other municipalities and the unincorporated county. In 2015, Niceville had 93 animal control calls in the city. In 2020, Niceville had just 6. 

The Director mentioned that they looked into charging the county for county-wide animal control services. The county would then charge each city based on their usage of the services. This would substantially reduce the cost to the city.

Nothing concrete is in the works as of this moment, but the director mentioned that she would be speaking to Public Safety Director Patrick Maddox in the near future about the idea. 

Just a note: This post is brought to you by Chris Saul of Abstract Creative Communications. It’s his mission to increase participation in local government and make Niceville a more quirky place to live.

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