Douglas County officials should be forgiven for expressing some skepticism during a visit last week by the secretary of the Kansas Department of Children and Families.
When Secretary Phyllis Gilmore was asked whether there would be a renewed effort to close the local office of what previously was known as the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, Gilmore said “Nothing has been put on the table related to office closures.”
It’s probably the best answer she could give, but it’s easy to understand why local officials would take it as less than definitive. After all, the last time the state announced it would close the local SRS office, the announcement came without any previous notice to or consultation with local officials. To say “nothing has been put on the table” now doesn’t necessarily mean it couldn’t be put on the table any time in the near future again without consultation with local officials.
Even if the local DCF office remains open, local officials are understandably concerned that cuts in state funding may result in other service and financial hardships for the county. County Administrator Craig Weinaug noted that the governor’s veto of funding for an environmental program that provided grants to help local governments inspect and monitor water and wastewater systems also was done without talking to local officials and would result in Douglas County having to carve out $40,000 in its budget to replace the grant funds. District Attorney Charles Branson also noted the state no longer was assisting the county with a truancy diversion program after several SRS staff members retired.
State agencies have been instructed to submit budget proposals that would cut their current budgets by 10 percent. Gilmore said she was confident those slashed budgets wouldn’t be recommended by the governor in January. Douglas County officials and residents may be consoled by that opinion, but they also know how quickly things can change.