- Associated Press - Saturday, December 13, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas collected the lowest percentage of child support payments in more than a decade, but did so more cheaply than it had in the past.

Data obtained by The Topeka Capital Journal (https://bit.ly/1BEfsGk ) through an open records request show that in fiscal year 2014, only 54.04 percent of current support due was collected. The last time that percentage was lower was in 2000, when the state had a 48.17 percent collection rate.

Still, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback characterized the overall results of the state’s 2013 privatization of child support collection as good, noting that cost-effectiveness has risen sharply.

“What we’ve done on collection of child support payments, where we’ve privatized that - thus far, we’ve had good overall results. Now, the collection levels haven’t been that much increased. Our costs have gone down substantially, so our net to the dependent individual or to the state has been much improved,” Brownback said.

The state collected less current support dollars in fiscal 2014 than in the previous year, even though the amount of current support that is due is growing. About $130.6 million in current support was collected in 2014 - nearly $4 million less than in 2013 - while the amount of current support rose by roughly $600,000 this year.

In addition, the percentage of child support payments in arrears that was collected in 2014 fell, while support orders - through which a court sets terms of child support from one parent to another - also declined.

In an interview with The Capital-Journal, Brownback focused on data that show Kansas collected $5.89 for every $1 spent collecting it. Last year, the state collected $4.12 for every dollar, while in 2002, the state’s cost-effectiveness ratio was 3.39 to 1.

The Department for Children and Families has argued that an influx of cases caused by changes made under the Affordable Care Act is partly responsible for the falling collection rate.

“The first year of privatization was all about getting this cost-effectiveness number up,” said Trisha Thomas, who leads child support services. “The next year, and how we kind of budgeted and really thought about things is the obligation rate and the percentage of current support are the ones that go up the next year and stay up there.”

The governor’s comments on child support collections were in response to a question about whether he supports increased privatization in state government.

“If it makes sense and it works,” he said. “I’m a pragmatic conservative. I tilt conservative, but it’s got to work.”

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