‘Perpetual’ funding for Kansas children’s programs all but gone

by Bryan Thompson, KHI News Service

A Topeka-based children’s advocacy group says legislators’ inability to keep their hands out of a pot of money meant to permanently fund children’s programs in Kansas has drained that funding source nearly dry.

Kansas Action for Children said the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund was established to invest the proceeds of a multi-state tobacco settlement in programs to benefit the health and welfare of Kansas children.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and chief executive officer of Kansas Action for Children, said lawmakers instead have tapped the KEY Fund again and again over the last 15 years, to the tune of almost $200 million, to support other budget priorities.

“There certainly was a choice,” she said. “Policymakers had the choice to repeal the tax cuts that were passed in 2012 to avoid situations like this, where we are again short-circuiting investments that we made a commitment to many years ago. So, certainly, this is a choice. There were alternatives.”

Had that $200 million been invested, Cotsoradis said, it would have grown to at least $365 million by now. Had the money been used for high-quality children’s programs, she said, it would have brought an estimated return of almost $1.5 billion.

“On the low end, when we invest in little kids we’re talking about $4 for every dollar we put in. On the higher end, it looks more like $9,” she said. “So we actually used the most conservative estimate to determine the $1.46 billion.”

As it now stands, Cotsoradis said the KEY Fund will be down to $140,000 by the start of fiscal year 2017, about a year from now.

“There was a vision in the beginning that these programs would be supported in perpetuity by this endowment,” she said. “By ‘sweeping’ these funds year after year, we’ve really compromised what was an important long-term vision for our state: really investing in young children so we could have a strong workforce.”

Cotsoradis said Kansas also faces an imminent reduction in the revenues it receives from the tobacco master settlement fund.

“It is just around the corner,” she said. “This is the last budget cycle where we will have two portions to that payment. That means we are facing a reduction of about 24 percent, beginning in 2018.

“We will not have enough resources in the Children’s Initiatives Fund to sustain early childhood programs at level funding, and most of those programs have been at level funding for six or more years. So, even sustaining at the current level will be impossible with the KEY Fund being empty.”

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T-Bones meet Gary SouthShore tonight in KCK; fireworks planned

Following a 7-2 East Coast road trip, the Kansas City T-Bones head into a seven-game homestand beginning Friday night against Gary SouthShore and Grand Prairie at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.

Plenty of promotions are planned for all fans, including adult replica jersey giveaway, a Sizzle mini-figure giveaway and Fourth of July fireworks.

Friday: Appearance by the Falcon Skydiving team and post-game fireworks. 7:05 p.m. start against Gary SouthShore.

Saturday: Post-game fireworks. 7:05 p.m. start against Gary SouthShore.

Sunday: Savers Sundays: $2 off berm tickets with a Savers club card. Pre-game player autographs. 5:05 p.m. start against Gary SouthShore.

Monday: Kids Eat Free (first 2,000 kids 12 and under. 7:05 p.m. start against the Grand Prairie AirHogs.

Tuesday: Free T-Bones adult replica jersey giveaway (first 2,000 adults). Reading Program Night. 7:05 start against Grand Prairie.

Wednesday: Pre-game Players Read to Kids on the Field. Free Sizzle sports mini figurine giveaway (first 1,500 children, ages 6-12). Special appearance by Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove. Post-game catch on the field. 11:05 a.m. start against Grand Prairie.

Thursday: Throwdown Thursday. Kaw Valley League Night. 7:05 p.m. start against the Grand Prairie AirHogs.

Tickets for all seven games are available by calling the box office at CommunityAmerica Ballpark at 913-328-5618 or at tbonesbaseball.com.

Many offices closed today to celebrate Independence Day

Friday, July 3, is a holiday in many offices throughout the nation to celebrate Independence Day, which falls on a Saturday this year.

The Unified Government and Board of Public Utilities offices are closed today in observance of Independence Day. Offices will reopen on Monday, July 6, during regular business hours.

Although the BPU’s business offices and customer service lobby are closed today, emergency service is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. For power emergencies, customers may call 913-573-9522. The water emergency number is 913-573-9622.

All Kansas City, Kan., Public Library locations will be closed July 3, 4 and 5 in observance of the Independence Day holiday.

Friday, July 3, is a state holiday in Kansas to observe Independence Day, and state offices are closed.

Friday, July 3, also is a federal holiday for most federal employees in observance of Independence Day. Federal offices are closed Friday.

The U.S. Postal Service will deliver mail on Friday, July 3. Post offices will be closed on Saturday, July 4, and there will be no mail delivery then. Service resumes Monday, July 6.

Many businesses throughout the United States also are closed Friday.