By Bryan Lowry, Gabriella Dunn, and Hunter Woodall 
October 4, 2016

More cuts to Kansas’ troubled budget could hit programs for children especially hard, according to documents agencies submitted to Gov. Sam Brownback’s office last month.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families would close three service centers, reduce staff and reduce grants if the state moved forward with a 5 percent budget cut.

Some of those programs try to keep families together and prevent unnecessary foster care placements.

“The end result of this reduction could be a greater number of children unnecessarily entering foster care at a much higher cost per child,” the department wrote in the report.

Kansas agencies submitted reports to the state’s budget director in September outlining how a 5 percent budget reduction would affect them.

Brownback’s office refused to release those documents, but The Star and The Wichita Eagle obtained reports for four state agencies.

Brownback’s office has said the governor does not intend to make across-the-board cuts. The governor requested the reports to prepare a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That proposal will be presented to the Legislature in January.

However, the state is now facing a more than $60 million budget hole for the current fiscal year, making budget cuts likely.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families, which oversees programs aimed at helping needy families, would lose $6.8 million under a 5 percent cut. It would also stand to lose nearly $4 million in federal matching funds.

The agency could close service centers in Goodland, Greensburg and Iola if a 5 percent cut happens. The staff at those offices would be moved to other offices.

It would also cut 66 positions from its Economic and Employment Services department, which oversees child care assistance and other programs aimed at low-income families, disabled people and the elderly population in Kansas. The staff reduction would save the state $1.4 million.

Haley Pollock, spokeswoman for Kansas Action for Children, a nonprofit policy group, called those cuts “particularly devastating” in an e-mail Tuesday. She added that “child care assistance helps Kansas parents get back to work or enables them to go look for work.”

The cuts are being discussed at a time when fewer than 10 percent of eligible Kansas children are even receiving child care assistance at all, according to the nonprofit.

In addition, the agency would reduce community service grants and grants for faith-based initiatives by a combined $550,000.

The department warned in its report that staffing reductions could cause delayed processing of applications, administrative deficiencies, higher error rates, late payments and tardiness in federal reporting.

“This latter effect could result in federal penalties,” the department wrote in the plan.

Other reductions could eliminate youth to adult transitional programs and could reduce the department’s ability to help families in crisis situations.

Theresa Freed, the agency’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that the department “is committed to protecting children, promoting healthy families and encouraging personal responsibility.” She called the reports on a 5 percent cut “a routine budget exercise.”

Annie McKay, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, said the cuts would devastate low-income families and the economy as a whole.

“They’re coming on top of eight earlier rounds of budget cuts,” she said. “The fact that this administration is looking at ‘let’s look at more cuts’ rather than the root of the problem with tax policy goes to show how little regard this administration has for children and families in Kansas.”

She also said Kansas is getting left behind other states by almost all measures.

“There’s little to no evidence that the tax plan that all this is going to prop up is successful, is going to work, has worked or will work in the future,” McKay said.

The report from the Kansas Department of Revenue shows that a 5 percent cut would cost that agency $770,000 a year and cause it to leave 15 jobs vacant.

Without those 15 workers, the state would lose $12.8 million in collections. Over two years, it could cost the state almost $26 million.

Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said the request to outline possible budget cuts is typical.

“All six years that I’ve been here, you’ve been asked about what a reduced package would look like. … This is nothing different,” Jordan said.

In its memo, the Department of Corrections warned that a 5 percent cut “would do irreparable damage” to its system and weaken public safety. In all, it would trim the agency by $34 million over the next two fiscal years.

Tuesday’s leaked documents said low-risk offenders wouldn’t be supervised by parole or community corrections if the budget were cut.

Nearly $1.8 million could be cut from prevention programs aimed at helping juveniles.

The largest cut would come from community corrections at $6 million annually or $12 million over two years.

Other cuts would be made in substance abuse treatment, $1.6 million annually that helps people who have been convicted of multiple DUIs. Without that option, according to the agency, those offenders would probably be sent to prison.

The Kansas Adjutant General’s Office, which oversees the state’s emergency management services, warned that a 5 percent cut would make it difficult for the Kansas Department of Emergency Management to obtain federal grants that require matching funds, and that could have a major impact for the state and local governments.

Without the matching funds, “we miss irreplaceable dollars. Investments made thus far in terrorism prevention, preparedness programs, response equipment, planning efforts, and training are jeopardized without adequate money to sustain them,” the document said.

“Without solid capabilities at the state and local level … events normally not requiring state action could end up at the State’s footsteps, requiring even more costly expenditures,” the document from the adjutant general’s office notes.

The Department of Emergency Management stands to lose more than $94,000 in federal matching dollars if the state makes a $47,000 cut to its budget, according to the report.

The Kansas Army and Air National Guard stand to lose $179,000 in combined federal and state dollars if the cut goes through.

Read more from the Kansas City Star.