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Our View: Humane Society hasn't justified request

4:31 PM, Feb. 8, 2013  |  Comments
The Humane Society of Marathon County has requested an additional $168,000 in funds from the county.
The Humane Society of Marathon County has requested an additional $168,000 in funds from the county.
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The Humane Society of Marathon County has requested an additional $168,000 in county funding to continue to deal with the region's stray animals. The organization will make its case on Monday to the Marathon County Board's Finance Committee, and with it will explain how it arrived at this figure, which amounts to an increase of more than 127 percent from its current funding level of $132,000.

We will await those details. But an increase of that size, all at once, seems hard to swallow. County officials should look for very specific information about new initiatives, and should weigh very carefully the details of the plan. New funding should be attached to specific, measurable outcomes - an approach that more local governments would do well to apply to more institutions than just the Humane Society.

The Humane Society provides a vital service, and one that no other local institution does. We need the Humane Society to be successful and healthy, and we are supportive of a comprehensive plan to deal with the county's animal control issues. That very well could mean new funding or new resources for the organization.

But simply increasing funding won't take care of the underlying issues. If Marathon County has a problem with strays - and we agree that it does - then let's address the conditions that lead us to have too many neglected animals in our communities. If the problem is that pet owners don't pay required licensing fees, then let's follow Wausau's lead in devising ways to get more of them to pay.

Simply increasing an organization's budget won't necessarily move us forward in addressing those underlying problems. It certainly won't reverse existing trends. Policymakers should be looking toward comprehensive solutions, not the treatment of symptoms.

The Humane Society clearly has an important role to play and may need more money to do it. We applauded Wausau for acting on the recommendation of its animal control task force and creating a fund for two humane officers to deal with animal control issues. And we believe the assessment of county officials and Humane Society leaders that the organization today operates on a shoestring budget.

But government also needs to be hard-headed about resource allocation. Any request for an increase of more than 100 percent is an extraordinary one, and must be accompanied by an extraordinarily detailed and specific program to address a county problem.

Marathon County is in the process of moving toward a merit-based pay system for its employees - compensation based on performance, not seniority. It's an important initiative that ties the use of taxpayer dollars to specific, measurable outcomes. The county's elected leaders would do well to take a similar approach in funding decisions.

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