Crime and business stories are always among our most read. But write a story about a stray or injured animal and we know readers will react. In droves.
Our story last week about the Nov. 27 Rice County commissioners meeting to consider defunding Prairie’s Edge Humane Society and giving its $5,000 allocation for 2019 to the county Soil and Water Conservation District was no different. The thought of a shelter having to turn away homeless animals got some residents riled up, and we expect that many will be at Thursday night’s Truth in Taxation hearing, ready to give commissioners an earful.
We’re not here to weigh in on whether the proposed shift is a good idea or not. Both organizations do really good work in this county. What we’re wondering about is the timing of the conversation and the way commissioners went about it.
According to Prairie’s Edge’s website, it takes in 460 to 500 animals each year, with cats at its Northfield facility and dogs fostered in area homes. The $5,000 is about 3 percent of its annual budget, but without it, Prairie’s Edge will need to scale back the work it does: providing food, housing and medical care for homeless animals.
Rice County Soil and Water Conservation District is likewise important to this region, which prides itself on an abundance of gorgeous lakes, meandering creeks and the wild and scenic Cannon River. The SWCD as it’s known, helps landowners manage and conserve water and soil through educational, financial and technical assistance. That’s particularly important to our county, which relies heavily on agriculture.
Our beef with the commissioners is the 11th-hour conversation and the lack of notice to anyone at Prairie’s Edge. If not for our reporting, supporters of both organizations might not have had a chance to weigh in on the decision.
Representatives from outside organizations made their funding requests months ago, before the preliminary 2019 budget was approved in September, when there was still time to increase overall funding. It was then commissioners should have asked questions of Prairie’s Edge, and let them know that funding could be on the chopping block.
Let’s be clear, the Board of Commissioners is fully within its purview to talk about possible funding shifts. But the level of transparency and sheer lack of consideration in failing to notify Prairie’s Edge of the discussion doesn’t meet the standard. We expect more — much more — from our elected officials.