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Abuse shelter officials beg to keep money from fund

  • Eagle Topeka Bureau
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at 11:05 p.m.

Employees of domestic violence and abuse shelters statewide pleaded with the Kansas Senate on Wednesday not to pass a bill they said would make funding their centers difficult.

The shelters rely on funding called a judicial branch surcharge, drawn from docket fees.

Senate Bill 218 would continue the fees for two years but remove the mechanism that divides the money among a number of state funds, including a protection from abuse fund. The money instead would go to a new judicial branch docket fee fund.

In 2012, the surcharge generated $10.4 million. The Office of Judicial Administration estimates the docket fee revenue for 2014 will be $18.3 million. Of that, $7.8 million would be credited to funds within the judicial branch, $1.7 million would go to other state and local agencies, and $8.8 million would go to the state general fund.

Supporters of shelters said they are concerned that grant funding they have received in the past would be moved into the state general fund or provided to the courts. They say shelters would no longer be able to count on designated funding for core operating costs. A protection from abuse fund has provided partial funding for domestic violence and sexual assault core operating costs since it was created in 1984. The fund has raised more than $1 million a year for 29 statewide sexual and domestic violence programs.

“We would be forced to take funds from programs and direct services to fund critical administrative functions that the agency must have to operate,” said Janee Hazlick, executive director of Safehome, Johnson County’s domestic violence agency.

Supporters of the bill said it would act to fill a gap of roughly $22 million for the judicial branch.

“The funds would be used for nonjudicial salaries, but it would also be used for judicial and educations funds,” said Helen Pedigo, special counsel to the chief justice of the judicial branch. “It would reduce judicial branch dependency on the state general fund and would keep revenue collected by the courts in the courts.”

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, asked opponents of the bill who work in domestic violence agencies whether they care where the money comes from or whether they care instead that the funds exist.

Still, shelter employees said they are concerned,

“We provide services for crime victims, crime victims that have experienced sexual violence and sexual assault,” said Jan Jones, executive director of the Harvey County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force. “This gap will only provide greater challenges for us.”

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