WICHITA, Kansas — The future of a struggling Sedgwick County juvenile home for boys is in doubt, after a long-term funding solution died in a Kansas House committee.
Sedgwick County commissioners previously said the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch would close June 30 if the state didn't provide more funding. The provision of short-term funding hinged on the long-term solution that did not advance Tuesday in the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1hy1Nna ).
The ranch, which serves 32 boys, nearly closed last year before the state provided $750,000 — half of what the county sought — to keep it open.
The bill, which would have created a new classification of youth residential centers to house medium- to high-risk juvenile offenders and would have required a new state cost study, was hurt by a perceived lack of commitment from county officials, said Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby.
"If they're (commissioners) going to expect things to happen without their support, things designed to benefit them, I have a hard time understanding how at this point we can actually create any new initiative," Howell said. "This was really the end."
The county, which owns the ranch and operates the program, receives a state reimbursement of $126 per boy per day, but it has said it needs $201 per day to cover the costs of running the ranch. Howell said it's unlikely that legislators will pass any other funding measures for the ranch this session.
"If we don't get additional funding, we'll have to make plans to wind it down," said Commission Chairman Dave Unruh.
A motion in the House for short-term funding failed this month. A corrections budget advanced by the Senate Ways and Means Committee does not include a provision some lawmakers wanted to fund the ranch.
State Corrections Secretary Ray Roberts told county commissioners in December that if the state increased payments to the ranch by $75 per boy, it would have to match that rate for other facilities, which would cost the state $10 million. He also said 130 beds are available at facilities similar to Riddel in south-central Kansas.
Howell said the ranch's slim hopes rest with the Department of Corrections, which has commissioned a new cost study that could potentially increase funding for next year.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com