A proposal to eliminate Warrensburg's animal shelter from the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget, met with strong resistance from some of those attending Monday night's City Council meeting.

During a presentation of the proposed budget by Finance Director Marcella McCoy, it was learned that the City of Warrensburg's total revenue is projected at $10 million, with expenditures at $10.9 million for 2020-21, creating a $929,450 deficit.

“The goal is to eliminate as much of that deficit and propose to identify at least $500,000 in service cuts to achieve most of that and then have available cash reserves and the CARES Act money to make up the difference for this particular fiscal year,” McCoy told the Council.

Four options were presented to Council to close the funding gap. Those options are:

*Eliminate animal shelter services completely, do not fund a public information officer position, and reduce one or two general fund positions, to produce a savings of $554,800

*Eliminate animal shelter services completely, leave the public information officer position filled, and reduce three to four general fund positions, for a savings of $541,000

*Keep animal shelter services, and reduce seven general fund positions for a savings of $553,000

*Keep animal shelter services, and eliminate the shelter manager (or one other position), and keep the public information officer, but eliminate seven to eight general fund positions for a savings of $539,000

“Options 3 and 4 are really where I'm at,” commented Warrensburg Mayor Bryan Jacobs, after hearing McCoy's presentation.

The mayor later added that it costs around $350,000 annually to operate the animal shelter. “And it brings in about $70,000 in revenue.”

But Jacobs voiced his support of the shelter. Making the shelter private is not something that can be accomplished in three or four months, he said. "That's a four- or five-year plan."

Councilman and former Mayor Casey Lund suggested making the shelter a privately-run organization. He also noted that a city-run shelter is not required by state statute. "We have strong leadership, we just need money," Lund said.

Lund asked Jacobs if he was okay with eliminating general fund seven positions.

“I'm not okay with eliminating seven positions, either,” Jacobs replied. “I don't like any of these plans … But the animal shelter is a service that we need to continue to provide to our community. If we're going to be man's best friend, and every one of our logos has that dog on it. We need to have that animal shelter.”

Acting Shelter Manager Kayla Frank delivered a pre-written speech to the Council, calling the Old Drum And Friends Animal Shelter an essential service, and adding that the shelter is receiving its best reviews in years. “It would be a great disservice to close,” Frank said. “Closing the shelter would create our second pandemic.”

The Warrensburg animal shelter, located at 102B South Holden, has been in operation for over 43 years, and at its present location for over 30, according to Frank.

“By closing the shelter, you'll subject more animals to starve, be hit by a car or become a public safety concern,” Frank told the Council. “And surrounding shelters don't have the capacity to take on strays from a town with a population of more than 18,000 residents.”

She continued, “Are we not the town with the slogan 'Man's Best Friend?' I am very drawn to find an alternate solution,” Frank stated.

Several others attending the meeting spoke in support of keeping the shelter open.

Old Drum And Friends is open from 1 to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 12 to 3 p.m. Saturday. And closed on Sunday and Wednesday. Call the shelter at (660) 747-9131.

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