To the editor, Key West The Newspaper:

Had Margaret Blank bothered to contact the Florida Keys SPCA (FKSPCA) before writing her inaccurate article that was a mixed bag of topics about our tax returns, conflating the cost of our new shelter at our Key West campus with our recently increased contract for animal control in Marathon, and the identities of professionals we have retained to design and build the Key West shelter, we would have been pleased to have given her the information she claims to be shrouded in mystery.

Her main concern appears to be the “humungous windfall” she alleges the FKSPCA recently received from the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). A short history lesson: In November 2015, the previous contractor for the Marathon jurisdiction, SHARK, approached the FKSPCA to ask if we would be willing to assume the contract due to their difficulty running the shelter with the County contract funds. After discussions with Monroe county staff, the FKSPCA agreed to assume the contract at the current rate with the understanding that because of a lack of historical data on operating costs, that once we had determined the actual cost of running the shelter for a year, we could come back to the County for appropriate funding.

As we had feared, the real cost of running the shelter was $405,000, far in excess of the $254,532 the County provided. We had hoped to cover any shortfall by increasing our fundraising efforts, but such a large deficit required us to dip into our reserves to fulfill the contract. At that point, the County decided to open the bidding process (RFP). Our bid of $425,000 included an increase in our base employee wage from $10 per hour to $14.50 per hour. (As an aside, the FKSPCA proudly offers its staff paid vacation time, medical insurance and other benefits.) Ms Blank finds this increase ”very suspicious” and I hope this explanation helps her understand the reality.

Ms Blank’s assertion, “Taxpayer funds are being commingled with the funds of a private charity for the purposes of the new building.” is wrong, plain and simple. The increase in the Marathon contract has nothing to do with the construction of the new shelter in Key West.

For the sake of brevity, I won’t address her bullet-point questions specifically here but would ask her to please contact our executive director, Tammy Fox, for the simple answers to them. Ms Blank will then have the information for an accurate follow-up article, including the construction of our new shelter in Key West. For the record, though, with her education and over twenty years’ experience in the field of animal welfare, Ms Fox’s salary is commensurate with that of other animal welfare professionals in her position.  As president of the board of the FKSPCA, I take great exception to Ms Blank’s implication that the FKSPCA board was fiscally irresponsible when determining Ms Fox’s salary. We are fortunate to have her at the helm of both campuses; her salary is well deserved and needs no justification.

I am disappointed that Ms. Blank’s article was based on supposition when her concerns could so easily have been addressed. It is a pity that she did not take the time to find out the answers to her own questions in a simple email or phone call.

Jane Dawkins
Florida Keys SPCA

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