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Opinion

Opinion

SRS responsibility

Local officials need to let issues related to the closure of Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation offices play out at the state level before stepping in with local solutions — or dollars.

August 7, 2011

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It’s good that local officials are taking an active interest in maintaining services for local clients of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. However, city and county officials shouldn’t be too quick to commit local taxpayer dollars to pay for services that should be the state’s responsibility.

The closure of nine SRS offices across the state is beginning to get the attention of state legislators, including some Republicans, who may hold additional sway with the Republican administration of Gov. Sam Brownback. Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, has asked SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki for additional information about the planned closures and publicly rejected Siedlecki’s contention that closing the offices was necessary to meet a legislative mandate to cut SRS administrative costs by $1 million.

McGinn, who was the lead budget writer in the Senate, said last week that SRS officials invited legislators to make the budget cuts but that the intention of legislators was for administrative cuts to be made at the state level, not by eliminating local offices.

Douglas County commissioners have had several private meetings with their attorneys concerning the SRS situation. A plan seems to be in the works, but no details have been revealed. The Lawrence City Commission’s Tuesday agenda includes a public briefing on the SRS matter, which may shed some light on what local officials are contemplating.

Local officials are right to monitor this situation closely, but they need to let it play out at the state level before making a commitment to help maintain local SRS services — especially any commitment that might involve local tax money. Unfortunately, that may take a little time. The Legislature’s Joint Committee on State Building Construction requested more information on the SRS closures last week, but the committee doesn’t plan to discuss that information and meet with SRS and Department of Administration officials until its next meeting in September. Legislators who are concerned about this issue need to press their concerns now and make sure that local SRS offices aren’t already closed before legislative leaders get around to calling SRS officials to account.

The Lawrence SRS office was by far the largest office on the closure list, but eight other Kansas communities — and their state legislators — also are worried about how SRS services will be delivered to their residents after local offices are closed. This is a statewide issue that deserves statewide attention.

SRS leaders made the decision to close these offices, apparently with little regard for how that decision would affect the delivery of services to thousands of Kansas residents. This problem is theirs to solve. It’s good of local officials to want to pick up this cause, but even though it feels like SRS officials are holding Lawrence hostage, we shouldn’t be too quick to pay the ransom.

Comments

Liberty275 3 years, 4 months ago

How many years would 14 million dollars keep the SRS going in our quaint little cornfield?

xclusive85 3 years, 4 months ago

"This is a statewide issue that deserves statewide attention."

And it has been since 2003, when SRS offices started closing.

dlewisto 3 years, 4 months ago

I agree, closures started long ago and people in many counties have had to adjust. I'm in the west part of the state and it is 60+ miles for many people to access services. If this does not become a statewide concern, these will not be the last of the closures. Cuts are ongoing, positions are frozen, vacant positions are being eliminated, early retirement options are being offered. This is far from the end of what will be done to SRS under the new "leadership" if they go unchallenged.

KS 3 years, 4 months ago

dlewisto - And where do you expect to get the money? Pay attention to what is happening in the world. We are broke! Game over!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 4 months ago

The mission of the SRS is to help those who "Really" need help, and to protect the taxpayers dollars. Not grow the beast in the name of helping others.

deec 3 years, 4 months ago

You mean like creating new highly paid administrative jobs for buddies, starting new programs with funds diverted from assistance funds, and raising the salaries for existing jobs for those same buddies?

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