Board of Directors Update of Recent Events

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The board of directors, at its August 19, 2019, board meeting reviewed and discussed the Best Friends report received August 6, 2019. It should be noted that the board of directors embraced the opportunity for Best Friends to perform an operational review.  Although preliminary discussions with representatives of Best Friends and representatives of the Humane Society commenced in February, the review did not take place until the middle of May.  Contrary to Chief Bolduc’s representation in a memo dated August 5, 2019, to the Mayor and Council, he did not invite Best Friends to assist.  Without the Humane Society agreeing to and welcoming a review, no review could have or would have taken place. 

The board of directors is grateful for the review and the resources provided by Best Friends.  Before the jurisdictions decided it would no longer negotiate with us, we were hopeful that we could and would implement their recommendations and pivot towards a no kill shelter.  Unfortunately, our limited financial resources will not allow this to occur.  It is evident in Bolduc’s memo that the Humane Society has been excluded from negotiations as his memo clearly indicates the three jurisdictions have been working diligently and collaboratively.     

Prior to receiving the Best Friends written report the Humane Society implemented some recommendations brought to its attention in a post review meeting.  These include empowering shelter coordinators and changing staff at the front desk.  Although we are unable to extend the hours we are open due to monetary constraints, we were willing to change hours to allow for evening or Sunday openings.  At least four individuals, including a veterinarian, financial advisor and pet services providers expressed interest in joining the board.  Unfortunately, negative press and inaccurate statements about staff, volunteers and board members have adversely affected those board building efforts.  The radiograph machine has been repaired for months.  The Animal Emergency and Referral Clinic donated a second surgery table.  We administered a volunteer survey a year and a half ago.   The website has been improved and updated.  An Amazon wish list has been successfully implemented.  Relationships with rescues have been fostered and improved.  Social media presence has been expanded.  Progress has been made and the Humane Society is committed to implementing further recommendations but is severely hampered by inadequate revenue.  Despite knowing our revenues are woefully deficient, both the County and the City of Fort Pierce have consistently made late payments ranging from being days late to weeks late.        

Over the last four years staff and hours have been cut to decrease expenses.  37 % of current staff members make minimum wage.  Reserve funds have been used to subsidize expenses.  Currently the Humane Society’s operating deficit of $26,000. monthly is not sustainable.  It should be noted that Best Friends provides a benchmark of between $3.00 and $6.03 per resident as typical compensation for sheltering only.  The average compensation received from the three jurisdictions is $1.66, with the City of PSL providing the least compensation of about 81 cents.  This compensation is supposed to provide for medical needs in addition to sheltering costs.  Unfortunately, the jurisdictions focus on the Humane Society’s alleged failures of fundraising while ignoring their grossly deficient compensation for services.     

Regarding its fundraising efforts, the Humane Society has a direct mail program which has netted in excess of $40,000. the last fiscal year.  Its annual Paws in the Park event has been increasingly successful, netting in excess of $6,000. this year.   We opened a Thrift Store almost three years ago.  This has proved to be a profitable endeavor.  Our latest direct mail sent in May, Spring into Action, netted in excess of $6,000.  We have canisters disseminated throughout the community and have received many needed items via our Amazon Wish list, etc.  Thus, it is unclear why the patently false information about our fundraising is promulgated.  However, the disinformation and misinformation hamper our ability to fulfill our mission.   

We fully cooperated with the audit whose timing the county controlled.  With our limited resources we have served the community for decades and appreciate the support the community has given us.  The jurisdictions repeatedly question our expenses.  Payroll and medical expenses alone exceed their collective compensation by 50%.  The county’s 2019-2020 budget provides for the hiring of three maintenance workers at a cost of $200,000.  The Humane Society’s annualized payroll of 28 employees, including a veterinarian is $604,317.  28 maintenance workers hired by the county would cost $1,866,666.  February 19, 2019, at the BOCC meeting, county staff recommended the board designate a $1,000,000. contingency fund for future softball fields.  The City of Port St. Lucie’s operating expenses for the Civic Center have exceeded revenues over the past 10 years by more than $15,000,000.  Last year’s budget included a $2,300,000. subsidy.  Port St. Lucie has budgeted payroll increases of 4.4 million in its proposed 2019-2020 budget.  Fort Pierce’s Sunrise Theater and Golf Club operate in the red.  The difference between us and the governments is they get to raise taxes to cover their excess spending. 

Clearly the jurisdictions have excluded the Humane Society from their deliberations and collaboration.  As early as February when both the county and the city declined to participate in our Paws in the Park event they previously “volunteered” for, their intent has been obvious.  The county commenced its audit inquiries in February but delayed the audit until July.  No jurisdiction ever engaged the Humane Society in negotiations.  Only after the Humane Society sent its June 18, 2019, letter to the jurisdictions did the jurisdictions impose conditions on any negotiation.  Interestingly, the budgets had already been set.  The volunteer board regrets the intransigence and unwillingness of the jurisdictions to meaningfully negotiate with the Humane Society and continues to be grateful to its dedicated staff and committed volunteers.