The plan, which the City Council is scheduled to consider Monday night, July 23, aims to save nearly $450,000. The financial crisis at Palo Alto Animal Services was prompted by Mountain View's decision last year to withdraw from its partnership in the operation, depriving Palo Alto of about $470,000 in annual revenues.
The plan calls for increasing fees for spaying and neutering by an average of 22 percent — to about $95 — for residents of Palo Alto and its partner cities, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. For non-residents, who make up about three-quarters of all customers, the fees would go up an average of 50 percent, to $125.
"The costs for these increases are still substantially lower than private veterinarian rates and competitive with other local low-cost providers," wrote Ian Hagerman, the performance auditor for the city's police department, which oversees Animal Services.
The animal shelter, located on East Bayshore Road, would also extend its hours with the expectation of booking an additional 3,000 appointments every year, a 25 percent increase. These moves are expected to increase the revenues from the spay-and-neuter operation by $131,810 in the current fiscal year and by $143,793 every year after that.
Though the changes to the spay-and-neuter operation are by far the largest component of the city's plan to raise revenues, staff also propose to increase most vaccination rates by $5 and dog-licensing rates by $2 to $5, depending on the type of dog and duration of the license. Adoption fees would go up by 25 percent for all customers. Rabies vaccines would remain at the current level, according to the report.
Proposed staffing changes are not as drastic as ones the city had previously contemplated. However, 2.6 full-time-equivalent positions would be cut from the 13-person staff, including the animal-services supervisor and one of four animal-control officers, along with the part-time volunteer coordinator.
The loss of an animal-control officer would likely reduce response times when there are simultaneous calls for services. This impact, however, would be slightly mitigated by Mountain View's withdrawal from the local operation, the report states. Daily calls for services are expected to drop by about 10 per day to seven or eight between November and April and to decline from 13 to about 10 during the busier period of May to October.
"Lower priority calls, such as deceased animal pickups, (could) experience a delayed response and could be held over for the following shift during particularly busy days," Hagerman's report states.
The proposed staffing reductions are expected to save the city $284,426 annually starting next year.
Altogether, the cost reductions would constitute about 60 percent of the funding gap while the revenue increases would make up the other 40 percent.