City extends animal services contract

The city of Kent will pay King County about $363,000 next year to help provide animal control officers, sheltering and licensing services.

The City Council’s Operations Committee approved a new inter-local agreement with the county on March 7 to extend the contract five more years beginning in 2018.

Kent is one of 25 cities that contracts with the Regional Animal Services of King County.

A three-year contract expires at the end of this year.

“It includes an automatic five-year extension if a city does not opt out with notice by June 30, 2021,” said Aaron BeMiller, city finance director, who helps oversee the contract, at the committee meeting.

When a city drops out, the costs go up for the remaining cities. The city of Kirkland opted out starting next year to go with a private partnership.

“They (county officials) talked to other cities about joining, and one other city considered leaving, but that’s not the case now,” BeMiller said. “Costs are based on calls, shelter and licensing all rolled together and contracted out to each city and unincorporated King County. Kirkland left a $280,000 hole to fill when they left.”

The county filled $140,000 of that gap based on more efficient operations and internal changes but keeping services the same, BeMiller said. The remaining costs were allocated to the 24 cities.

“The impact to us is about $10,000, so it’s not that big of an impact,” BeMiller said.

The contract will automatically renew in five years. If too many cities drop out to drive up costs by more than 10 percent, then cities will have the option to reopen negotiations with the county on a new contract.

Kent’s total cost for 2018 is about $1.3 million, but the city’s costs are reduced based on how many pet licenses are sold in Kent. After the city pays its fee, the county covers the rest of the costs out of its general fund.

“If pet licensing revenue comes in higher, it reduces our cost,” BeMiller said. “We did that last year and it aided us with about $75,000.”

The Regional Animal Services program serves about one million people and 500,000 animals, according to county staff. Staff divides the county into three districts (north, east and south) with one animal control officer assigned to each area. Kent averages about 1,200 calls per year and is in the south district with Black Diamond, Covington, Enumclaw, Maple Valley, SeaTac and Tukwila.

The cities of Auburn, Federal Way, Des Moines, Burien and Renton each run their own animal services programs.

Kent has contracted with the county for animal services since 2010. The county previously paid for all costs. Kent officials have looked at the city running its own program but decided the costs were too high with no nearby shelter besides the one operated in Kent by the county.