TEXAS CITY — A showdown may be looming between the agency in charge of running the county’s animal shelter and the cities that pay the bills.
For the past two months, officials with the Galveston County Health District, which manages the county’s Animal Resource Center, attempted to push through a 2014-2015 budget plan that would increase how much the entities that fund operations would pay next fiscal year.
A consortium of nine cities and the county fund the bulk of the resource center’s operations.
Not all of the entities are on board with the proposed spending plan. In fact, last month, the entities recommended going with a less-expensive option.
Last week the United Board of Health, the appointed board that oversees the health district’s operations, approved a budget plan that does not have unanimous support of the entities that fund the animal shelter’s operations.
They approved the plan that would give shelter employees a 1.5 percent pay raise. That same plan, dubbed Option 4, would convert a part-time volunteer coordinator and adoption counselor to a full-time post.
Also under the proposal, a part-time crematory specialist would become a full-time job.
While most of the cities agreed to support Option 4, the cities of La Marque, Dickinson, Santa Fe and Clear Lake Shores want to go with an option that keeps spending closer to current levels.
Dickinson’s city council has been openly unreceptive to increased spending and has complained about the shelter’s management.
Initially La Marque was willing to support the more expensive plan, but when Dickinson and Santa Fe rejected the plan, the La Marque council approved a plan with no pay raises or changes to part-time positions.
Clear Lake Shores has threatened to drop out of the consortium if the budget is increased.
Santa Fe City Manager Joe Dickson said the United Board of Health’s vote was a “slap in the face” of the entities that pay the bills.
“This really took us by surprise,” Dickson said Friday. “No member on the United Board of Health is a member of a contributing city and no one from the board has been at any of the animal shelter budget workshops.”
Dickson thought a compromise plan that drew support of the Animal Services Advisory Committee was a better route.
The option, offered up by Dickinson City Administrator Julie Robinson, would increase the number of hours worked by the crematory specialist and the adoption coordinator from 20 hours per week to 30. If those positions generated increased revenue after six months, then the committee would consider making those jobs full time as well as offering the pay increase.
Most on the committee thought that would be the plan that moved forward. Instead the United Board of Health went with Option 4.
Robinson was out of the office Friday and couldn’t be reached for comment, but indicated the board’s actions would not meet with favor by her council.
Dr. Mark Guidry, the CEO of the health district defended the Option 4 vote, but did not explain why the United Board of Health rejected the wishes of the cities.
“I believe the board sees this budget as most suitable for effectively delivering expected services during the next fiscal year,” Guidry said. “In reviewing the interlocal agreement, approval of budget is granted to the (United Board of Health) and commissioners court.”
Guidry said, too, that if members of the consortium were concerned about the budget they could have attended the United Board of Health meeting.
“Public members may, and often do, attend board meetings and may request to address the policy-making board,” Guidry said.
Dickson said there was no real indication the United Board of Health would outright reject the committee’s recommendation.
“For our council, the (United Board of Health decision) was a big ‘screw you,’” he said. “We are looking at our options, but the (health district) knows we can’t afford to go this alone and operate our own shelter.
“The next step is going to commissioners court. If the United Board of Health didn’t accept our recommendation, let’s see if the commissioners court accepts theirs.”