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Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Faulty SRS plan

As the cost-saving justifications for closing the Lawrence SRS office crumble away, state officials should admit their mistake and revisit their decision.

July 27, 2011

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It is becoming increasingly apparent that officials of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services hadn’t done their homework before deciding to close the Lawrence SRS office.

Secretary Rob Seidlecki and his staff owe it to Lawrence and the state to revisit that decision based on real, accurate figures of how much the closing will save the state.

Several pieces of information that have come to light in the last several days should call into question Seidlecki’s leadership and competence as the SRS chief.

• On Monday, the Journal-World obtained a memo from a Kansas City SRS official indicating that Lawrence SRS workers could not be transferred to the Topeka office because it would be unmanageable to have staff members from the Kansas City SRS district working in an office in the Topeka SRS district. On Tuesday, another Kansas City SRS official sent another memo saying Topeka was still an option for displaced Lawrence staff members. However, according to yet another SRS spokeswoman, this one in Topeka, the question of whether Lawrence cases could be transferred to Topeka “is still undergoing review.”

Now it looks as if Lawrence workers can move to Topeka but, if they do, they may not be able to take their Lawrence cases with them. So who will handle those cases? Apparently Seidlecki didn’t even talk to his own staff people enough before announcing the Lawrence closure to figure out how this part of the transition would work.

• About half of the $400,000 the state SRS office said it would save from closing the Lawrence office was federal reimbursement funding that now will be lost, so the state savings is down to about $200,000. An SRS spokeswoman tried to soften that blow by saying, “It’s all taxpayer money, so we are saving money.” Yes, it is federal taxpayer money, some of which came from Kansas taxpayers, that now will go to states other than Kansas where it was supporting a key SRS office in Lawrence.

• State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, points out that while Seidlecki is closing SRS offices across the state on the pretext of cutting administrative costs, he has created several new high-level administrative positions on his own staff. The salaries for the people filling new positions for a chief of staff and a deputy secretary handling faith-based initiatives alone add up to just under $200,000 — the entire amount that it now appears will be saved by closing the Lawrence office.

• Among the greatest local concerns about closing the Lawrence office is how to provide SRS coverage for child-in-need-of-care cases. Although state officials have offered assurances that those workers would be available whenever needed, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson reported at a recent public meeting that the state SRS office had no plan for how that would be accomplished.

In addition to all of these factors, uncertainty remains about whether the state will be able to break its lease on two buildings at 19th and Delaware streets. State SRS officials say their attorneys have told them that a “financial hardship” clause in the lease will allow them to break it. However, even if that is the case, that clause may be overridden by a four-year “guaranteed lease period” that won’t run out until December 2012.

Local government or nonprofit entities may be willing to offer money or other benefits as part of a negotiation to save the local SRS office, but the inept handling of this matter by state officials raises questions about whether local taxpayers should offer such a bailout.

The better option would be for Gov. Sam Brownback and Seidlecki to simply admit that the decision to close the Lawrence office was based on faulty and incomplete information and should be reversed.

Comments

notleft_notright 2 years, 9 months ago

Closing and shrinking government is a good thing. Local, state and federal politicians have become to comfortable spending our tax money. Today SRS in Lawrence, tomorrow Kansas. I for one am pleased that we are winning the "war on poverty" and that we can close down SRS offices. If you want to see true poverty go to India or Africa. America's poor are their rich.

SRS is intrusive, it doesn't provide the services promised, and many of those who seek assistance just need to work a little harder. Of course there are a few that do actually need assistance, and they will get it eventually. With any luck they won't have to stand in front of an Obamacare death panel.

Personal responsibility. Think about it.

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none2 2 years, 9 months ago

Speaking of stupid government. Has anybody read the following about the county level, as well as the school district?

Sounds like there is a lot of either favortism or incompetence in the spending of public funds. The money wasted here could have paid the rent to keep the Lawrence SRS open:

http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/did_i_say_that/2011/jul/27/douglass-county-land-deal/

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JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 9 months ago

I am not a fan of Governor Brownback. However, if he reverses course on the decision to close the Lawrence SRS office, I would applaud the strength of character that would take. It takes a strong person to admit when a mistake has been made and then correct that mistake. Weak people offer more and more excuses and try harder and harder to justify what they did. This is why I doubt the office will remain open. Brownback has surrounded himself with "groupthink" type people. "None of us is as dumb as all of us."

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

"Maybe my “renters” tax looks good at this junction??" yep!

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George Lippencott 2 years, 9 months ago

Interesting. If I follow the logic here we could never cut services to anybody (in favor). If the feds reduce funding then we expect the state to pick up the loss. If the state cuts something then it becomes a local responsibility. What is wrong with setting priorities and simply not funding something that does not make the cut?? If we cut SRS offices should we not expect the funds for the avoided costs to be redirected to something else like maybe K-12 education?

Let’s face it, Kansas does not have all the money we would like and it must (unlike the feds) balance the budget. We have already raised taxes and cut services. Nobody seems interested in taxing the wealthy!!! That does not leave a lot of options. We cut SRS or education or health or what?? Maybe my “renters” tax looks good at this junction??

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Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

(cont.): SEBELIUS is now in Washington and "leading" HHS!!! Now, don't get Alceste all wrong: Brownback and company which includes his puppet from Florida and these "faith based" mumbo jumbo bible thumbing mess over little kids bullbutters ain't going to be any different from the fraud Jordan was putting down. And as for the Fed's....that is Health and Human Services compelling Kansas to follow the rules and regulations.....who is it that is head of HHS in Washington now??? shrug

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Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

concerned_kansan noted: "Don Jordan and Tanya Keys were paid to cover up what was going on in the SRS agencies and all of their regions. Jordan was aware that there was falsifcation of documents to illegaly remove children and place them in the custody of the state to receive federal funds (only problem was - how they did it - not following the requirements - the children weren't eligible for federal funding and the Kansas tax payer had to pay - out of the general fund - for the crimes against the children and families)...." and earlier had noted:

"Ask Rep Paul Davis about the findings of the KS Post Legislative Audits - falsifications of documents to wrongfully remove childlren - the cost for those children coming out of the general budget. And Guess what - the outcome of foster care is such that these children become adults that are still a drain on the tax payer."

concerned_kansan is stating fact with respect to the fraud being perpetrated on the families of the state of Kansas by SRS in the past relative to how children are torn from their caretakers and placed in a disgusting process of foster care drift to fill the coffers of our good friend B. Wayne Sims and the Dante's Inferno place known as Kaw Valley Center here in Kansas thanks to the privitization of foster care services in Kansas.

The facts have been out for almost four years that Kansas has been and continues to destroy families and the future of children in the way it "does business". These facts were all outlined by Richard Wexler and the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform's report:

RETURN OF “THE CRUELTY”

Why Kansas Child Welfare is Broken – and ^ Ten Ways to Fix It

which may be read here: http://www.nccpr.org/reports/kansas.pdf

How quickly we forget and take our eye off the ball.....if it ever was on the ball. All this caterwallering when, in the final analysis, it has nothing to do about children and everything to do about "ME FIRST!!!". Incredible....well....sort of....

http://www.nccpr.org/reports/kansasrelease.pdf is a press release that needs to be re-read.

Here's a reminder when that woman SEBELIUS was the Gov. and quoting from the press release noted above: "NCCPR also has joined Citizens for Change in calling on the federal Administration for Children and Families to investigate whether Jordan’s statements indicate that Kansas is violating federal law or regulations, though he warned that this same federal agency has ignored Kansas’ evasion of federal regulations concerning reporting the number of children taken from their parents." (cont.):

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lunacydetector 2 years, 9 months ago

s.r.s. closes their lawrence office, the homeless move out of town. news at 11

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concerned_kansan 2 years, 9 months ago

Don Jordan and Tanya Keys were paid to cover up what was going on in the SRS agencies and all of their regions. Jordan was aware that there was falsifcation of documents to illegaly remove children and place them in the custody of the state to receive federal funds (only problem was - how they did it - not following the requirements - the children weren't eligible for federal funding and the Kansas tax payer had to pay - out of the general fund - for the crimes against the children and families)....By the way - the legislators were also aware this was going on - Better to have a higher paid Secretary of SRS and staff that doesn't allow vioaltions of law and the stealing of children - less cost to the state and tax payer - less pain and trauma to the children and parents. I'm all for the higher pay if the laws, regs, policies, procedures and guidelines are followed... If they aren't - then maybe Paul Davis needs to be apprised of what is being done - that old policies haven't been fixed........I'm sure he would run with it...............

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Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

Our state is being run by a bunch of incompetent, right-wing driven buffons. To those of you who voted for Brownback, all I can say is "you get what you pay for."

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chootspa 2 years, 9 months ago

Good editorial. Too bad Brownback is more likely to just double down on the incompetence than admit he made a mistake. Look at the "saving taxpayer money" spin his office already tried to put on it.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 9 months ago

Dear Ms. De Rocha -- perhaps you should tag out and let the former "reporter" Ms. Whitten have another crack at it.

Dear Mr. Siedlecki -- looks like you're going to need to hire a third PR person. The one you hired from the Bush administration to "augment" the one you hired from KansasReporter.com isn't working out.

It is unprecedented to see a state agency prepare information for the legislature's research division and then try to claim the information is false. The legislature's research division has but one source of information -- the state agency.

SRS giveth, so SRS cannot taketh away.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

(CJ Online Article Cont.)

De Rocha said $590,000 initially presented by SRS to be saved by consolidating the local offices was incorrect because the transition couldn't be completed immediately upon start of the fiscal year July 1. That reduced savings in the initial year of the plan to about $410,000, she said.

The difference will have to be made up by rollbacks in other areas of the SRS budget, she said.

Another point of contention centers on whether SRS' central office reorganization under Siedlecki had, so far, resulted in higher overall spending on administrative personnel.

On Tuesday, SRS produced a chart suggesting administration payroll had been cut $116,000 below the level when Democrats controlled the agency last year under Gov. Mark Parkinson.

Davis countered with a spreadsheet indicating SRS' payroll for top staff was $386,000 larger than when managed by Parkinson's secretary. He said his summary of expenditures under the six-month leadership of Siedlecki was prepared by the Kansas Legislature's nonpartisan research staff.

"It was meaningless information," De Rocha replied. "It's not accurate."

She accused Democrats of massaging statistics in an attempt to discredit Republican officials at SRS.

"We didn't do anything with the numbers," Davis said.

The House Democratic leader said SRS central administration shouldn’t be immune to budget cutting required at the agency's satellite offices.

Both sides agreed Siedlecki created new positions in the SRS hierarchy, including the hiring of Anna Pilato as deputy secretary for strategic development and faith-based and community initiatives at a salary of $97,500.

Chief of staff Jeff Kahrs is earning $100,000 in that new position. Steve Ashcraft, the new director of state hospital coordination, was added for $70,000. Siedlecki earns $115,000, about $2,200 more than his predecessor.

Davis said he remained concerned about loss of SRS personnel and facilities in Lawrence, which typically serves more than 25,000 walk-in clients annually.

He said SRS defended closure by noting Lawrence consumers had access to computers at the public library to apply for aid or could take advantage of a quality highway system leading to agency offices in Topeka, Ottawa and Kansas City.

"The argument SRS consumers in Lawrence should get in their cars and drive to a surrounding city ignores who these people are," Davis said. "Some do not have access to transportation."

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

Go Get 'em Paul!!! By Tim Carpenter Copyright 2011 . All rights reserved. THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

Confusion about personnel and financial ramifications of consolidating offices of the state's social welfare agency continued Tuesday to plague a process driven by a legislative mandate to cut costs.

Officials at the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services confirmed a memorandum distributed to about 85 agency employees in the likely-to-be-closed Lawrence service center mistakenly declared none would be eligible for transfer to the Topeka office of SRS.

Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for SRS, said a central office staff member transmitted an "unauthorized" document declaring Lawrence staff members could only make themselves available for jobs in the agency's offices in the Kansas City area.

That ran counter to previous comments by SRS officials suggesting transfers would be considered statewide as consolidation progressed.

"The Topeka office remains an option," De Rocha said. "There is no ban."

SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki, hired by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, said merger of nine local offices was necessary due to action by the 2011 Legislature requiring a $1 million reduction in administrative expenditures.

However, budget projections from SRS tied to shutting down local offices were challenged by legislators in the Democratic Party who also questioned whether consolidation represented good public policy.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said SRS officials' statements didn’t properly account for the loss of $200,000 in federal funding triggered by closure of the Lawrence SRS office. That reality would significantly diminish touted savings to the state of $433,000, he said.

Davis also suggested cancellation of an office building lease in Lawrence might not accurately be included in projected savings because of how the state divided SRS administrative expenditures.

"The numbers don't work out," Davis said.

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Phillbert 2 years, 9 months ago

Good thing the LJW told everyone to vote a straight Republican ballot in the last election. Otherwise what else would it have to write about?

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 9 months ago

STANDING OVATION!!!! (((((((((clapping))))))))))

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lunacydetector 2 years, 9 months ago

the jw's lease 'controversy' is poppycock. 'subject to fiscal necessity' trumps 'guaranteed four year lease period'

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LH3867 2 years, 9 months ago

Great editorial. These are the facts we, the taxpayers of Kansas, need. God knows we are not getting them from Brownback and his sidekick. Thank you. It's time for a BIG change in Kansas. We cannot tolerate any more of the politics this administration brings. Move on already. We all know there are bigger political aspirations and all the Brownback cronies think they will be in Washington. At this rate - they will all be going somewhere much warmer.

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SilverShadow 2 years, 9 months ago

Why was one of the largest offices targeted? Why were there new positions created at a cost of $197,000? Why close office at a cost of losing $200,000 in federal funds? Why were career experienced employees fired? Why were people replaced with "people who would support new SRS leader and Brownback? Does not entire thing stink?

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SilverShadow 2 years, 9 months ago

Simple summary of SRS plan. Screw Lawrence and all those voters who didn't vote for a christian nutcase.

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none2 2 years, 9 months ago

Do we know that they didn't do their homework? What if their homework was not about saving money, but penalizing parts of the state that do not support Radical Republicans?

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