Saturday, June 27, 2009

Update on City's Proposed Cuts to Spay/Neuter Services

A lot of people are appropriately fighting to keep Emancipet from getting its funding cut as TLAC staff has imprudently proposed to the City Manager.

But it's also important to point out that several of TLAC's alternative budget cuts (in addition to the Emancipet cut) propose to replace cut items using funds from TLAC's "donations fund," which is currently used essentially as a "slush fund" by TLAC's director. The donations fund has nearly half a million dollars in it. TLAC has argued, then, that the proposed cuts to Emancipet and other items (like microchipping, and medical services for feral cats) are not really cuts at all---because their funding will be replaced by the donations fund.

Here's the problem: the donations fund currently pays for lots of items, including emergency medical services and (most importantly) free and low-cost spay/neuter services. So if an item on the proposed list of cuts (say, microchipping) gets its funding cut but then replaced by the donations fund (as TLAC currently proposes), that too will effectively cut spay/neuter services because the money from the donations fund won't be able to be used for spay/neuter services.

So what's the alternative? We truly believe the only way to have a serious, open, and honest discussion about budget cuts is to have a real, line-by-line TLAC budget that is open to the public for all to see--- and for all to suggest cuts. While the Animal Advisory Commission has been given a more detailed budget this year than in prior years (after Council staff intervened), the more detailed budget still does not provide the level of detail necessary to propose real, honest cuts. For example, TLAC spent $13,300 on "cat tents" to use as give-aways at the same time they proposed to cut spay/neuter services. But there is no "cat tents" line in any budget anyone has seen.

This is not to say that real cuts haven't been proposed despite the (probably intentional) difficulty in comprehending TLAC's budget. Pat Valls-Trelles has proposed several real cuts, and a subcommittee of the Animal Advisory Commission is attempting to do the same. And, several FixAustin members are also attempting to come up with proposed cuts--- and those "cat tents" are a good place to start.

We will continue to attempt to find unnecessary spending in the TLAC budget that is of lesser priority than TLAC's proposed cuts to spay/neuter services. Just thought it was important to communicate where we are in this process, the main reason this is more difficult than it should be, and the importance of contesting not only TLAC's proposed cut to Emancipet, but also the proposed cuts to anything that will have its funding replaced by the donations fund.