Good for Sedgwick County commissioners and officials for pressing the state to live up to its responsibility and adequately fund the Judge James V. Riddel Boys Ranch. But that will be difficult, as tax cuts approved in the past session created a large state budget shortfall.
Currently, the state pays the county $126 per day per boy at the ranch near Lake Afton, when the actual cost is about $201. Because it can’t afford to keep subsidizing this state responsibility, the Sedgwick County Commission considered closing the ranch. To its credit, the county opted to keep the ranch open until the 2013 legislative session is over in hopes that the state will finally step up.
Toward that end, county officials took some local lawmakers on a tour of the ranch last week. The lawmakers seemed to understand the value of the ranch and the pound-foolish prospect of closing the facility.
Though the ranch isn’t always successful in turning around the lives of troubled teens (Marquis Marshall, the 19-year-old charged with the recent killing of two people in the Dollar General store near 13th and Oliver, spent some time at the ranch), it helps reduce crime and lower jail costs. According to one estimate, the ranch programs result in 390 fewer criminals to house in the county jail over a 10-year period.
The challenge will be getting the state to increase spending when its priority will be cutting spending. Still, Gov. Sam Brownback has said that public safety is a priority, and closing the boys ranch would harm safety and end up costing more money.