Topeka Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. said Wednesday that he would ask Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature to fund office expenses for the SRS Lawrence in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2012.
“I am happy that an effort to restore our SRS office funding is under way,” said Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell. “The funding help given by the city and county could only be a temporary stop-gap, and the continuous operation of the SRS office here in Lawrence is vital to the most vulnerable of our citizens.”
Douglas County Commissioner Jim Flory said, “We intend to actively support this budget request in order to eliminate any financial obligation of the city or county after July 1, 2012.”
Last summer, Siedlecki proposed closing nine SRS offices, including the one in Lawrence. He said the closures were needed to comply with a mandated budget cut.
But Lawrence officials protested, saying the closure would disrupt necessary services to thousands of people and create havoc in the community.
The city and county agreed to pay SRS $450,000 over two years — which equals the amount of rent and overhead expenses — to keep the office open. Four other cities approved similar agreements.
Under those agreements, Siedlecki vowed to make a good-faith effort to get adequate state funding in fiscal years after July 1, 2013. In a committee meeting last week, Siedlecki said he would be glad to work with the Legislature to start the process of getting that funding.
But when asked if he had requested that funding in his budget proposal submitted to his boss, Brownback, Siedlecki said he hadn’t.
But apparently that has changed. Siedlecki said in his final budget recommendation to Brownback, he would include a request for funds to operate the five locally financed SRS offices. Those other offices are in Fort Scott, McPherson, Pratt and Marysville.
“During the course of negotiations over this agreement, we have developed a good working relationship with Douglas County and city of Lawrence officials that should stand us in good stead going forward,” Siedlecki said.
The announcement was made shortly after the formal signing of the payment agreement with Lawrence officials.