Hundreds of people filled Lawrence’s South Park Saturday morning to protest and gather petitions. The group is asking Gov. Sam Brownback and SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki to reconsider their decision to close Lawrence’s SRS office. “I certainly hope the governor will be listening to the things the people of this area have to say,” Christine Kaplan said. “I believe this population needs to be heard. Kaplan attended Saturday’s rally.
Earlier this month, Siedlecki announced that 10 Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services offices would close in order to save $1 million in administrative costs. The SRS secretary says his office was directed last legislative session to cut $42 million from the SRS budget. Closing the Lawrence office is expected to save more than $400,000. “We’re going to be transferring some of those folks to Wyandotte county, Topeka, Ottawa, Overland Park,” Siedlecki said at a July 6 news conference. “So, we’re going to work with the employees as well as work with the clients.”
But those at Saturday’s rally say money will not be saved by closing the Lawrence office. Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson says costs will simply be transferred elsewhere. For example, he says, a truancy diversion program will be lost when the office closes. He says that program ensures that at-risk youth are attending school and staying out of trouble. “They believe if we can shift these services to other communities, we’re going to save money.” He said. “We’re not going to save money because of the things they’re not talking about, preventative services.”
People at the rally signed a petition that will be delivered to state officials. It’s unclear when the Lawrence office will close.