File photo. Dogs at the Castaic Animal Care Center await to find new owners on "Clear the Shelter" day on Saturday, August 19, 2017. Christian Monterrosa/ The Signal

Supervisors call for audit of Animal Control services in light of rate hike

Santa Clarita relies on the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, which is contracted year-to-year, and now wants more money to handle the contract services.

On Tuesday, county supervisors put the brakes on a rate increase floated by Animal Control, and recommended a review of billing services be done before the increase takes effect.

They want to see if cities, such as Santa Clarita, are getting the appropriate bang for their buck when it comes to paying for service.

Michael P. Murphy, intergovernmental relations manager for the city of Santa Clarita, testified before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

“My testimony to the board this afternoon was in support of the motion put forward by Supervisor (Kathryn) Barger and Supervisor (Hilda) Solis,” Murphy said. “I also pointed out that at the end of the six-year phase-in of the proposed new contract rates that it would represent an approximate cost increase to the city of Santa Clarita of approximately 245 percent.”

The increase would be unsustainable over the long term, Murphy told the board.

Representatives of other cities that also contract with the county for animal control said the same thing and supported the supervisors’ call for review.

The board approved a motion calling for a “fiscal and operational audit” of Animal Control to determine if the department is providing services in the most effective manner.

They also called for the same audit to see if all the department’s operations are fully optimized, including alternative service-delivery models, the leveraging of technology where feasible and the identification of areas where operating costs can be reduced.

Recently, the Department of Animal Care and Control had a consultant do an in-depth study of the department’s actual cost structure and current contract city billing rate methodology and make recommendations, according to documents prepared for supervisors.

The consultant proposed the county revise its current billing methodology to a cost model that allows for full cost recovery of providing animal care services to the cities.

Barger and Solis said the cost increases to the contract cities are significant.

The Animal Control department developed a phased-in plan that would spread the increases over a six-year period.

Barger and Solis, in their documentation submitted in support of the motion, said: “Many of our cities have expressed concerns over the billing rates as being too high, not justified and that cost savings measures should be explored before the new rates are implemented.”

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