Local News

Monday, Oct 07 2013 05:03 PM

City demands nearly $100,000 in animal license fees from county

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    By Autumn Parry / The Californian

    Jose Elicier, an animal care worker, fills a water bowl before continuing to clean out the dog cage at the Kern County Animal Shelter in this Sept. 6 file photo.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

The city of Bakersfield is looking to settle some animal shelter accounting with the county of Kern and reclaim $97,938 it says the county collected by licensing city residents' dogs.

Kern County is looking to do its own accounting.

Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy wrote interim Kern County Animal Services Director Shyanne Schull a letter last week demanding the misplaced licensing fees be returned to the city.

Schull said the county is looking into the city's claims -- but will also be reviewing city license records to see if the city's records are accurate and whether the county is owed some money as well.

"Kern County Animal Services will respond to the city when this review is completed. Until then, it is too soon know whether the city owes the county money, or vice versa," she wrote in an email. "We are confident that a thorough review of all license fees will put this matter to rest."

The city and county, as a part of their long-term animal sheltering partnership that recently ended, had agreed to sell each other's dog licenses to the public.

Under the agreement, the agency selling the license could keep 10 percent of any revenue collected on behalf of the other agency, Assistant to the City Manager Steve Teglia said. The other 90 percent should have been sent on to the other agency.

He said that as city animal officers were canvassing neighborhoods to license city residents' dogs, they began running across city pets that had a county license.

City officials contacted former Kern County Animal Control Director Jen Woodard and she told them the county had -- prior to her tenure -- begun issuing county licenses to city residents in an attempt to address critical findings in an audit.

Schull was not prepared to address that claim on Monday.

The county, Schull said, "will be thoroughly investigating this matter."

Teglia said, following the discussion with Woodard, the city asked for copies of licenses the county sold between Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 1, 2013.

A review of the 74,409 licenses issued by the county in that time, Tandy stated in his letter, showed that 4,162 of those county licenses had been incorrectly sold to city residents without a payment being sent to the city and another 74 licenses were sold to post office boxes for city residents.

The work was tedious and took a great deal of time, Teglia said.

According to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors office, the city's request for compensation was accompanied by around 150 pages of individual license records that the city claims prove its point.

Teglia said Monday he has two concerns.

First, $100,000 is a fair amount of money.

But secondly, Teglia said, it is impossible for the city to follow up with city animal owners and renew their licenses if the county incorrectly recorded licenses and didn't inform the city of them.

Also, it's hard for animal control officers to return a stray animal to a post office box.

In her response to a reporter's questions, Schull indicated that the county wants to make sure the city's analysis of the county's records is balanced by a review of the city's licensing practices.

"Currently, Kern County Animal Services staff is conducting a thorough review of the data," she wrote, "including the license fees collected by both the county and the city, to determine whether and to what extent any reimbursement is due to the county or the city."

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