Making a “good-faith effort” usually involves someone going out of his or her way to make something happen.
When the head of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services said he would make a “good-faith effort” to obtain additional state funding for the Lawrence SRS office, many local officials assumed that meant he would at least ask the Kansas Legislature for additional funding for next year.
They were wrong.
Local officials were understandably disappointed. “I definitely would have been much happier to see that good-faith effort to restore our funding start this year,” said Mayor Aron Cromwell. “That would have been a great sign that the good faith was genuine.”
Lawrence and Douglas County have agreed to pay $450,000 over the next two years to offset the costs of maintaining an SRS office in Lawrence. The agreement they signed with SRS didn’t require Siedlecki to request additional funding this year, but taking that action would have given local officials more confidence that the secretary is serious about working to fund the office without continued local financial support. Instead, Siedlecki indicated this week that, although he still would work with the Legislature to find that funding, he was satisfied to wait until next year to make any formal request.
“We have two years to work with the Legislature,” he said. “We promised to make a good-faith effort.”
It appears that, as far as Siedlecki is concerned, this problem is solved for at least two years. The money being supplied by Lawrence and Douglas County solves the SRS department’s problem. The city-county agreement with SRS is structured so that, if the Legislature approves more money for the Lawrence office, the quarterly payments to SRS can be reduced sooner than two years. That is important to Lawrence and Douglas County but apparently not so important to SRS.
State tax revenues have exceeded estimates for the last six months, and some local leaders saw that as an opportunity to seek additional state funding for the Lawrence office. Local officials still can take their case directly to legislators, but it would have carried more weight if it had been supported by funding in the SRS secretary’s budget request.
Local officials have reason to be concerned. They were forced into a corner by the sudden announcement last summer that the state would close the Lawrence SRS office. They had to scramble — and come up with a substantial amount of cash — to keep that from happening. They don’t want this issue to come down to the wire again — and neither should Siedlecki.
Last summer, officials in Douglas County and several other Kansas communities were forced to make an unpalatable choice to use local tax funds to pay for something that should be a state responsibility. There should be no thought that this is an acceptable solution that can be extended beyond the current two-year agreement. If the state wants local officials to trust their “good faith” in this matter, it should start working with local officials now to find ways to deal with this situation so that local governments don’t find themselves backed into a corner again two years from now.