The Board of McPherson County Commissioners is considering doing something it has never done, which is to fund a salary and benefits for an Intensive Supervision Officer, Stephanie Snow, whose position will otherwise be eliminated at the end of the fiscal year June 30th due to a cut in state funding for FY 2016, which starts July 1st.
Snow's request is a direct result of the state budget shortfall, as McPherson County has used solely state dollars for salaries and benefits in Community Corrections since the program was started in the 1990s.
Snow spoke eloquently to the Commission of her personal background.
"I interviewed for this job on January 4, 2012. Not many people can remember the day they interviewed for their job, because, typically, it's an insignificant date. For me, however, it wasn't. Little did I know, the day after I interviewed, my life would change forever. On January 5, 2012, my husband, Josh, was critically injured in a car accident. While I was in the hospital with him, I received a call from Sunny (Millicent, the office manager for McPherson County Community Corrections) offering me the job. Talk about a bittersweet moment. I finally got my dream job, and it was while I was sitting in the surgical ICU at KU Med, unsure if my husband was going to survive or not."
Her husband died January 14, 2012.
Snow continued, "Despite my concerns about taking a new job 65 miles away from my home, so soon after trauma and my newly acquired status of a widowed mother of four, I took a leap of faith and started here on February 14, 2012. I have stuck it out with this agency and this county through the darkest and hardest times of my life. I have since turned this tragic event into a valuable lesson for my clients. Many of them have experienced severe trauma in their lives. I have used my story to show them they can do it just like I have, to show them that they can fight, instead of lying down and giving up. This is one of the things that makes me a unique and valuable asset to this agency, because my clients can relate to parts of my life, which helps me to build rapport, and allows them to see that they can overcome the struggles, as well."
Snow also received supporting testimony from McPherson County Attorney David Page
Page said, "We rely on the Community Corrections Intensive Supervision Officers to report to my office and to me, the status of these offenders and how they're doing. Without the current staff, it's going to be more difficult to keep tabs on these individuals."
Page believes that keeping the current staff will be cheaper for the county than allowing the state's cut to stand.
Snow requested enough money for just her position, which totals $71,333.46 broken down into $44,283 in salary and $27,050.46 in benefits.
Page said, "The real impact, without her position is, it could actually cost the county more than that, in additional crime committed by offenders that are not, maybe, supervised as closely as they should be, because of a lack of staffing."
However, since McPherson County shares Community Corrections responsibilities with Harvey County as part of the 9th judicial district, which is also slated to lose an Intensive Services Officer, McPherson County wants to talk to Harvey County about how to staff going forward before making a final decision on whether to retain Snow's position. The presentation given at the McPherson County meeting Monday had not yet been given to Harvey County. Community Corrections' Janet Cagle said she plans to make a similar presentation to the Harvey County Commission with regard to that position, as well, and that she would get Commissioners the statistics on what other counties do to subsidize their Community Corrections programs.
County Administrator Rick Witte did point out that some minor administrative costs like office supplies are picked up by the County and the office space rental in McPherson County for Community Corrections is below market rate for the space, so there has been some assistance in the past in that regard.