SRS hopes budget will remain steady

Higher Medicaid costs among challenges for social services agency

? Preventing programs from being cut is probably the best the state can hope for in funding social services, the top Kansas welfare official said Monday.

Secretary Janet Schalansky noted that while the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services would receive extra federal funds for medical services, it also faced rising costs and falling state revenue collections.

She made her comments during a meeting with advocates for the poor, disabled and elderly, called by SRS to discuss its recently approved $2.2 billion budget for fiscal 2004, which begins July 1, and its preparations for fiscal 2005.

“It’s pretty status quo if not flat,” Schalansky said of the fiscal 2004 budget.

After the meeting she said: “We’re hoping our budget can stay sort of as planned.”

The meeting came the same day preliminary figures showed state revenue collections in May were $45 million short of projections. However, the state expects to see a net gain of about $140 million in federal funds, including $63 million for medical services, because of an economic stimulus package signed by President Bush last week.

State Budget Director Duane Goossen predicted Kansas still would face budget problems in fiscal 2005. SRS must submit 2005 proposals to Goossen’s staff by Oct. 1.

“Probably our best scenario for right now is simply to reproduce the kind of budget that has been passed,” Goossen said.

The agency will spend about $1.1 billion — half of its budget — on Medicaid costs, an increase of about $160 million from last year.

The department will delay payments for about 12 days at the end of this month to stay within its fiscal 2003 budget, Schalansky said.

SRS plans to make those payments immediately when fiscal year 2004 begins July 1.

In fiscal 2005, Goossen said, SRS would face pressures bedeviling other agencies, such as an estimated 18 percent to 19 percent increase in state health insurance costs and the need to contribute more to employee pensions to help shore up the retirement plan for teachers and government workers.

In addition, costs from rising numbers of people seeking services also are expected to increase by $50 to $60 million.