Joe Reitz, associate dean and professor at the Kansas University School of Business, said "overwhelming" might be too mild a word for the job facing the recently appointed task force studying the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
Reitz, who was appointed to the task force by House Minority Leader Marvin Barkis, D-Louisburg, said the tremendous growth of SRS in the last few years created the need for such a committee.
"I think this is a good opportunity for the state to find out what it really wants to be delivered and what customers it wants to be served," Reitz said.
Reitz said he thinks there are opportunities to provide quality services at a lower cost.
"You don't necessarily need to sacrifice quality if you hold down cost," he said.
THE 24-PERSON task force, with 17 legislators and seven public members, is assigned to review ways to deliver SRS services in a more cost-effective manner, look for ways to cut waste or duplication of services and determine whether vulnerable citizens are getting the type of service they need.
The task force, which is chaired by Sen. Gus Bogina, R-Overland Park, is expected to be empaneled well into next year.
Reitz said he understands that Barkis, in making the appointment, wanted his experience and expertise in both organizational behavior and business ethics brought to the committee. He said he agreed to serve after checking with his dean to make sure he could set aside enough time.
"He agreed that this was something really important for the state and something I should be involved with," Reitz said.
REITZ IS THE second KU professor to join the task force. Previously, John Poertner, associate professor in the School of Social Welfare, was appointed by House Majority Leader Robert Miller, R-Wellington.
Unlike Reitz, Poertner was able to attend the first two meetings of the task force last week. He said the meetings provided an overview of SRS, and because he has worked so often with the agency in the past, the meetings were a little frustrating for him.
There was "no real discussion or evaluation and no clear mesage about how we will proceed," Poertner said. "I was a little frustrated. I was ready to dig in."
Wint Winter Sr., former state senator from Ottawa who chaired the Senate Ways and Means Committee for six years, also was appointed to a position on the task force. His appointment was by Senate Minority Leader Mike Johnston, D-Parsons.
WINTER, FATHER of another member of the task force, Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, said the task force has a number of ways of looking at SRS. First, he suggested they could look at "taking the agency apart" by dividing it into two or three different parts. And he said they could look at both personnel restructuring and long-term financing.
But Winter, who has been working with the Kansas Coalition for Children and was a lobbyist for the Villages Inc. during the 1990 Legislative session, said the committee should not deal with short-term appropriations, saying this is the job of the Legislature.
"Our goal is to make a permanent difference in SRS," he said. "We hope to have a lasting impact on SRS in getting more services delivered to children and older Kansas who can't provide for themselves."