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Sedgwick County to eliminate 30 open positions

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, June 6, 2012, at 9:36 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, August 16, 2012, at 6:05 a.m.

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The south-central Kansas legislative delegation has scheduled a public forum next week about the possible closing of the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch.

The forum will be at 2 p.m. June 15 at Comcare, 635 N. Main.

The ranch serves juvenile offenders ages 14 to 20.

Because the program costs the county more than it receives from the state, county officials are discussing closing the ranch as the county tries to make up a budget shortfall.

Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan hinted at layoffs Wednesday after eliminating 30 open positions from the county’s work force.

The county plans to reduce or cut services to make up a budget shortfall. When services are cut, so are jobs.

“I fully anticipate that there will be some reductions in jobs that people are already occupying,” Buchanan told commissioners.

Buchanan has charged the staff to cut $9.3 million from next year’s budget so the county can get to a zero deficit by the end of 2013.

He cut 29.5 jobs Wednesday, which he expects will save the county $750,000 this year and $1.5 million next year.

Eight of the jobs were in general government, seven each in public safety and public works, three-and-a-half at Comcare, three at the health department and one in the department on aging.

Buchanan said there are “upward of 300” open positions at the county. The county employs 2,856 people — 2,657 of whom are full time.

About 120 employees left the county last year as part of a voluntary retirement program. Some of them were replaced, however, so the net reduction in staff was 106.

The county will save $7.8 million “over the five-year aggregate” because of the program, Buchanan said.

Commissioners will receive Buchanan’s recommended budget for next year on July 18.

Chairman Tim Norton said he expects Buchanan to approach the board in the weeks before then with more ideas about how to trim the budget.

“I think this is just a precursor for the manager trying to clean up a few things before going into the actual budget recommendation,” Norton said after the meeting.

Norton hopes layoffs are not necessary, but with millions at stake, they may be, he said.

“If we’re eliminating services and programs, that means eliminating people,” he said.

Commissioners expect, for example, for Buchanan to recommend closing the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, which serves about 40 juvenile offenders ages 14 to 20.

“I would suspect depending on what the manager comes up with that it would have some implications that we lay some people off,” Norton said.

Public hearings are set for 9 a.m. July 25 and Aug. 14 in the commission chambers on the third floor of the courthouse, 525 N. Main. The county is slated to set next year’s budget during the commission’s Aug. 15 meeting at 9 a.m.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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