Few will blame the Sedgwick County Commission if it follows the staff recommendation to respond to a $620,765 state cut by reducing or eliminating county funding to programs for at-risk youths. But such prudence today will cost the county later, when kids land in trouble and jail. And it demonstrates how state leaders have unloaded their budget problems onto locals.
Sedgwick County officials speak with regret about the cuts to come, which could include zeroing out $154,500 that went to Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters and slashing Communities in Schools’ funding from $170,000 to $51,389. To its credit, the staff found a way to recommend that some at-risk programs be spared, including Episcopal Social Services and Boys & Girls Clubs. And the generous Wichita community surely will pick up some of the difference through private donations.
But Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug surely voiced what many around the state are feeling when he told the Lawrence Journal-World: “The elected officials who claim they are being fiscally responsible — they are balancing their budget by merely shifting their expenditures to another level of government. It’s not only irresponsible; it’s dishonest.”
Like elected officials in Topeka, elected officials at cities, counties and school districts raise taxes at their political peril, especially property taxes. So most will do as the state did — and cut.
The consequences of Sedgwick County’s at-risk cuts may not be immediately apparent. But studies demonstrate that the best way to keep kids from becoming offenders is to invest in them while they’re young — through mentoring, after-school, leadership development and family support programs.
By cutting and cutting some more, state and county leaders are doing what they believe they have to do. But their savings today will cost taxpayers in the future.
— For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman