They don't want to cut funding to programs aimed at keeping young people out of jail, so Sedgwick County commissioners are taking a week to try to squeeze dollars out of an already stretched budget.
Commissioners on Wednesday put off one of many difficult decisions they'll make this year about how to spend taxpayer money.
That was a relief to groups such as Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters. But it may be only a week's reprieve.
The state, through its Juvenile Justice Authority, recently reduced crime prevention grants to the county for next year, cutting funding from $860,000 to about $240,000. The county in previous years had received $1.2 million.
That means the county faces making cuts unless officials find a way to make up the dollars.
Commissioner Jim Skelton wants to see about charging taxpayers a convenience fee when they use a credit card to pay taxes or do other business with the county.
For example, if you buy a zoo membership online with a credit card, the county absorbs the credit card company's fee. The county expects to pay more than $1.3 million in fees to vendors to accept credit cards this year.
That's money that could go to programs on the chopping block, Skelton said.
"It's weighing the ugly against the uglier," he said.
County Manager William Buchanan said later he would be "absolutely happy to take a look at that," but he added: "Even if we could produce that money, I'm not so sure that these programs would rise to the top of our needs. We have lots of other needs. We're laying people off."
Buchanan has said the county must cut $9 million from its budget next year and $8 million from its 2013 budget.
"We're going to be making a lot of tough decisions," he said.
Leaders of groups that could be affected said Wednesday that they understand the tough spot the county is in, but they pleaded for money.
County staff, with the help of a review by Wichita State University, had recommended eliminating funding to Big Brothers Big Sisters, about $154,500.
That would be about 10 percent of the group's budget, said president and CEO Dan Soliday. Big Brothers Big Sisters uses that money to serve about 250 children.
Jody Horner, president of Cargill Meat Solutions and president of the Big Brothers Big Sisters board, questioned why the county would put its dollars toward intervention programs instead of prevention programs.
"Big Brothers Big Sisters is the premiere prevention program in Kansas and across the nation," she said.
Soliday said the services the group provides to youth "are crucial in keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system."
Suzanne Graham, president and CEO of Communities in Schools, a dropout prevention and on-time graduation program, said the proposed cut to that group represents an 8.5 percent reduction in its budget.
Mark Masterson, director of corrections for the county, said the cuts "will make the bottom line look better" but will result in more juveniles in the criminal justice system.
"Juvenile justice reform has worked," he said.
Jeanette Livingston, who works at Comcare as a contract manager coordinating grants to agencies, said that "none of these programs are unproven. We are very focused on the goal that we are keeping kids out of the system."
WSU helped the county rank which prevention programs should get funding. The study put programs into three tiers: those that provide criminal justice system support, those that work with juvenile offenders and those that work with at-risk youth.
Programs were ranked based on how likely they were to keep juveniles out of the system.
"These are all very good programs, and they are achieving the results we would like. We just don't have the dollars we did," Livingston said.
Under the recommendation:
* Big Brothers Big Sisters, which had received $154,500, would get no money.
* Communities in Schools, which had received $170,000, would receive $51,389.
* The District Attorney Juvenile Intervention Program, which had received $394,646, would get $157,849.
* The Mental Health Association's Girl Empowerment Program, which had received $53,465, would receive no money.
* The Sedgwick County Department of Corrections administration, which had received $86,250, would get $24,173.
* County corrections' weekend alternative detention program, which had received $25,216, would get no money.
Some agencies would see no, or negligible, funding cuts.
* Episcopal Social Services' aggression replacement training program, would continue to receive $15,656.
* A teen intervention program operated by Episcopal Social Services would continue to receive $71,086.
* An outreach program run by the Boys & Girls Clubs would continue to get $120,000.
* A City Works program operated by Youth for Christ would continue to get $80,000,
* A GED program operated by the Kansas School for Effective Learning would continue to receive $84,500.
* Youthville's functional-family therapy program would get $1,085 less and receive $187,952.
* A Higher Ground program called "Learning the Ropes" would continue to receive $91,500.
* The Mental Health Association's PATHS for Kids program would continue to get $54,300.
* A detention advocacy services program operated by Kansas Legal Services would be cut by $21 and receive $167,327.