Tuesday, October 19 2021

TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) – Some local governments in Kansas are operating with 10 percent of their positions unfilled, making it difficult to provide the services citizens expect.

Statewide, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Kansas experienced a 4.7% drop in the number of public sector workers, which translates to about 12,000 job vacancies, but some cities are more hard hit.

The pandemic has made matters worse as the competitive job market has made it difficult to replace older employees who have decided to retire. And private companies, which also struggle to hire, have more flexibility in terms of compensation and benefits than municipal governments in general.

At Concordia, city manager Amy Lange said the government was reduced to the bare minimum necessary to fulfill the city’s functions, but with six open positions – representing 10% of the workforce. the city – workers are stretched.

The problems become more serious when you look at the pool of emergency medical technicians in the region, where full-time staff have been forced to work more often and longer because the pool of part-time EMS workers has shrunk.

“Yes, they are paid a little better. Yes, they are working overtime,” Lange said. “But after about a year they start to burn out and they also need a break.”

Elsewhere, the city of Lawrence has more than double the normal number of vacancies. In Winfield, the city had to overhaul its pay structure for utility workers to avoid being understaffed. And officials in Shawnee County and across Kansas have struggled to hire correctional and public safety workers.

Winfield City Manager Taggart Wall it’s no longer a question of whether local governments can do more with less.

“With the pressures continuing, if there is no change in funding, it will really do less with less,” he said. “Hard decisions will have to be made about what services are actually provided.”

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