SRS selected salaries comparison ( .PDF )
SRS notice to Lawrence employees ( .PDF )
Topeka House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, on Monday questioned high-dollar salaries and newly created executive positions at the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which is closing nine offices, including the one in Lawrence.
Gov. Sam Brownback and SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. have said the offices must be shut down to cut $1 million in administrative expenses that was required by the Legislature.
They have said people receiving services at the Lawrence office can access them online or travel to other SRS offices in nearby cities. Lawrence officials have said this isn’t reasonable and will result in more people losing assistance, a heavier financial burden on local non-profits, and an increase in crime.
Davis also questioned whether the Legislature mandated office closures, and he criticized new executive hiring at a time when thousands of vulnerable Kansans will be affected by the SRS moves.
“I'm concerned that the new administration seems to be spending a couple hundred thousand dollars more on upper management staff at the same time that they are closing local offices in order to meet a mandate for a $1 million in administrative cuts,” Davis said.
“It seems they ought to be cutting upper management positions to make sure that the Legislature's directive is followed rather than closing local offices,” he said.
Davis' office asked for salary information of top level positions at SRS, comparing the spring of 2010, under former Gov. Mark Parkinson, and now.
Under Siedlecki, who was appointed secretary by Brownback, several new positions have been created, including a chief of staff, who is Jeff Kahrs, former chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan. Kahrs is making $100,000 a year.
Another new position is filled by Anna Pilato, who is a deputy secretary heading a new faith-based initiative and making $97,500.
Siedlecki is earning $115,000 per year, while his predecessor, Don Jordan, was paid $112,742 annually. There is also a communications director and public information officer, earning a combined total of $100,000 per year. Last year, one person was the communications director at $70,000 and the public information officer position was vacant.
When he announced his new leadership team in May, Siedlecki stated: “We have assembled a team of experienced leaders who will focus on transforming SRS into an agency committed to improving the well-being of children and families, while remaining accountable to the taxpayers of Kansas through transparency and reform.”
In total, Siedlecki is spending $386,595 more on high-level staff than the amount spent at the end of 2010, Davis said.
SRS has repeatedly said the Lawrence closure alone will save approximately $400,000, with most of that coming in rent.
But on Monday SRS said that half of the projected savings would be in lost federal reimbursement funds that are currently paid to the state for administrative costs.
“It's all taxpayer money, so we are saving money,” said SRS spokeswoman Angela De Rocha.
And in another development, Davis questioned whether the Legislature, in its budget deliberations, intended for SRS to close offices.
The approved appropriations bill calls on SRS to make a cut of $1 million in the “Administrative Program,” but this line-item doesn’t include expenditures for office leases. SRS has a total budget of approximately $1.6 billion. Davis said there are other areas in the budget that SRS could look at beside shutting offices.
Additionally on Monday, an SRS memo obtained by the Lawrence Journal-World shows that Lawrence SRS office employees will not be able to transfer to the Topeka office, which is contrary to what SRS officials had initially said. The Lawrence SRS office has approximately 87 employees.
“The Topeka office is no longer an option for Lawrence staff to transfer to,” according to the memo.
“Based on the complexities of managing a county across two regions the decision was made to keep all Lawrence staff and cases in the current KC Metro Region and its remaining 5 offices,” the memo says. “KCM region will retain all responsibility for DG cases (unless a customer requests that their case move to another region).”