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Sedgwick County firms up plans to ask state for more money for Judge Riddel Boys Ranch

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, at 5:34 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, at 9:56 a.m.

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Commissioners have hashed out Sedgwick County’s legislative platform for next year and plan to vote on it Dec. 12.

The board reviewed a draft of the platform Tuesday, fine-tuning the county’s message to the state and, in some cases, going so far as to correct grammar and spelling.

The platform highlights the county’s priorities.

Getting more money for the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch is one of them.

County Manager William Buchanan had recommended closing the ranch in his budget for next year. County commissioners voted in August to keep the ranch open another year so the county could work with legislators to get more money for the youth residential center.

The ranch had cost the county about $1.5 million a year to operate. The state gave the county $126 per day per boy, but the actual cost was $204.

The county says in its legislative platform that it is “requesting recognition of the results of our investments in prevention and alternatives to prevent youth from moving more deeply into the juvenile and adult corrections system and requesting financial assistance from the state to pay the actual operating costs (for the ranch).”

Commission Chairman Tim Norton noted that “Not all YRCs (youth residential centers) are created equal.”

The county publishes outcomes of youth at the ranch although the state does not require that. Other youth residential centers in the state do not publish outcomes.

To keep the ranch open, the county reduced its capacity from 49 beds to 42, cut staff and moved to 12-hour shifts instead of eight hours.

Buchanan and corrections director Mark Masterson recently met with state leaders about more funding for the ranch.

The platform also supports continued funding for Affordable Airfares, which is intended to support low-cost air carriers. Commissioner Karl Peterjohn raised concerns about referencing a legislative post-audit report that had concluded that fares had decreased while passengers and flights out of Wichita Mid-Continent Airport had increased. Peterjohn said the number of flights is down. Commissioners decided that information had been correct at the time of the audit.

Lower taxes also are part of the county’s legislative agenda. It says that the county “strongly supports improving the tax climate in Kansas and approves of legislation for tax reform that will limit tax growth.”

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

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