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Archive for Thursday, October 13, 2011

Local officials likely will turn to Kansas Legislature for money to fund Lawrence SRS office

October 13, 2011

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It is not exactly the type of start city and county officials were hoping for when it comes to the partnership they formed with the state of Kansas to keep the Lawrence SRS office open.

City and county leaders on Thursday reacted to news that Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. didn’t request any money in his department’s upcoming budget to fund the operations of Lawrence’s SRS office.

Instead, Siedlecki made comments to a legislative committee that indicated he was content with relying on the city and the county to provide funding for the office over the next two years.

“We expected a little more effort on their part,” Mayor Aron Cromwell said of SRS officials. “If you don’t ask for it, you’ll never get it, obviously.”

But local leaders said Siedlecki’s failure to seek state funding for the Lawrence office doesn’t constitute a breach in the agreement the city and the county made with SRS. That agreement — brokered this summer after it was announced the state would close the East 19th Street office — calls for the city and the county to provide to the state $450,000 over the next two years that will be used to pay for the expenses of the Lawrence office.

In exchange for the payment, the state essentially agreed that it would not close the Lawrence office during the next two years, and that after July 1, 2013, that SRS secretary would make a “good faith” effort to obtain adequate appropriations from the state Legislature.

“They are under no obligation to seek funding earlier,” said County Administrator Craig Weinaug, who helped broker the deal. “So we do not view this as an indicator that they don’t intend to meet their commitments to us. The key issue will be a year from now. If they’re not making requests for funding then, that will be a problem.”

But some local leaders were hoping that the good faith effort would begin a bit early. Since the agreement was brokered this summer, the state has continued to receive good news about its finances. The state’s tax collections have exceeded projections for six straight months through the end of September. The state is now projecting to end the next fiscal year with cash reserves of nearly $200 million, the Associated Press has reported.

“I definitely would have been much happier to see that good faith effort to restore our funding start this year,” Cromwell said. “That would have been a great sign that the good faith was genuine. There is still time for this to all work out, but that definitely would have eased some concerns.”

The state’s improved financial condition may give the city and the county a better chance of convincing legislators that funding for the Lawrence SRS office should be included in the upcoming budget. Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan said he expects the county to lobby legislators to provide funding for the SRS office immediately, rather than waiting for the local agreement to expire.

“I would love to see this resolved before two years are up,” Gaughan said.

The city and county’s agreement with the state is structured so that if the Legislature provides funding for the office, the city and county are no longer obligated to make the quarterly payments to the state.

Comments

kansasredlegs 3 years ago

Hey Cromwell, I sure as heck expected a lot more effort out of you than folding like a cheap suit when you and yours agreed to fully fund this without even so much as a "Mr. Schwada, the moving trucks come tomorrow, will you take $300,000 of our local tax payers money in lieu of a vacant building in this economic climate?" instead of "Here you go, paid in full". Why would the Director ask for the funds when you and yours give so freely with OUR money. Please do us all a favor and resign and take the rest of the commissioners with you. However, fire Corliss before you all resign.

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trinity 3 years ago

wtf??? did they really expect more from this administration? if so, shame on the city/county leaders who started this in the first place!!! geez louise.

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LHS56 3 years ago

I have not read the agreement but it seems we agreed to pay for two years of rent. It really wouldn't take a New York lawyer to have added a cause that if State revenue allows, funding will be renewed by the State (means put it in the request and see what happens.) I believe kansasredlegs has the right idea but I do believe the State entered into a five year lease with Schwada that the City/County is paying. Brownie suckered us again.

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Joe Hyde 3 years ago

What would make many people more confident about the Kansas Republican Party is if the Legislature itself moves soon to restore full state-funded operation of all the recently-closed SRS offices, and simultaneously repay the affected city and county governments in full for the expenses those cities took on by locally funding a state operation.

Restore and Repay would go a long way. And not in two years, either: put Restore and Repay into the upcoming budget right now, do it when the state will have the money.

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Jim Williamson 3 years ago

Our Secretary of SRS isn't very bright. He may have just flaked when making his budget. Don't give him so much credit.

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jafs 3 years ago

No, it's the state reneging on it's responsibility to fund SRS offices, and choosing to spend that money on administrative positions instead.

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George_Braziller 3 years ago

"Volunteer" must be the new term for "extortion."

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pace 3 years ago

Brownback is destroying infrastructure, everything built up by generations of Kansas is for sale, cheap. His laws are convoluted, his tax cuts are to help the wealthiest, his creative design for education is turning schools into cattle pens.

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