Sedgwick County Commission more reluctant to take on federal money

WICHITA, Kansas – The Sedgwick County Commission turned down $330,000 worth of grants, close to half that was tied to federal funds on Wednesday.

This marks the third time in this year the commission has shied away from taking on money attached to the federal government.

Currently, Sedgwick County has 95 grants which total more than $34 million.

$10 million of that came from federal grants or federal money distributed through state agencies in 2014 alone, but, 2015 is a different story so far.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environments ‘Personal Responsibility Education Program Grant’ has been accepted by the county every year since it was created in 2010.

“It helps to pay health care workers to train teachers about STD’s and teen pregnancy.

But was one of two federal grants rejected by a three-to-two vote at Wednesday’s commission meeting, which accounted for $175,000 of federal funding.

Back in February, the commission rejected a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And in January, a $580,000 federal grant from KDHE also fell to by a three to two vote.

Altogether, those three grants alone account for over $2 million of funding turned down by the county this year, which is a sharp contrast to the old commission a year ago.

Last year’s commission saw more than $2 million dollars of direct federal grant money implemented and an additional $8 million in federal money distributed through a state agency.

So we asked Chairman Ranzau: Why?

Richard Ranzau
Commissioner Ranzau

“It seems like we are turning away free money, is that the case? Well, it’s not free money, that money happens to be borrowed or printed by the federal government and our children are going to have to pay that back,” said Ranzau.

Ranzau points out some federal money is turned away because of matching grants, which means the county would also have to put up some of its own money.

“Do we want to spend county property tax dollars on road, bridges, police, fire, EMS, or do we want to spend them to supplement grants that tell our citizens how to live their lives,” said Ranzau.

Ranzau said he isn’t totally opposed to federal funding, but he says it becomes a problem is when strings are attached.

“If they give us money with the ultimate goal of controlling our local community, that’s not something I’m going to look favorable on,” said Ranzau.

But others say those funds are vital.

“The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is always looking for ways to help people quit smoking and certainly we are looking at ways to educate the public.”

When it comes to the grants that were shot down by the county commission, the KDHE said the funding with be redistributed to the two other counties that use this grant.

The $580,000 KDHE grant that was rejected by the commission in January was picked up last month by the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, who will administer the four year grant

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