Commissioners debate FACT funding reallocation

Staff writer

County health department director Diedre Serene excluded Families and Communities Together Inc. from the proposed 2015 budget, sparking discussion among commissioners Monday about how to continue support for the nonprofit social service agency.

Serene removed an annual allocation of $6,000 FACT has received since 2002. She said she supports what FACT does, but chose to free the funds for use in other ways.

“I know the program is good, but I would rather, if it comes out of the county, it comes out of the general fund rather than our budget,” Serene said, “because I would like to be able to use our money for health services in the county.”

FACT receives approximately $250,000 from grants and donations to fund services to strengthen families. FACT provides and supports such things as early childhood education, underage alcohol prevention activities, Circles of Marion County, and serves as an umbrella organization for numerous task forces promoting the well-being of county families.

FACT director Ashley Gann described for commissioners the nonprofit’s services and funding sources. She said the loss of $6,000 could jeopardize the program’s existence.

“FACT is not sustainable with just grant funds,” Gann said. “The reason FACT needs the money is because we can’t just ask these grantors to give us an additional $6,000 for our undesignated fund. If we don’t write you in the grant, we don’t get that money, so we’re just out an additional $6,000 for FACT to continue standing.”

Gann said the program has $16,000 in undesignated funds to cover administrative costs, which includes the costs to pursue and administer grant awards.

“At the same time it hurts the county early childhood grant, because we need partnerships to receive grant funding,” Gann said.

“Could we not collaborate without funding? I would sign an agreement we would collaborate with you,” Serene said. “I don’t want anybody to misinterpret that as we want to cut all ties, because we definitely want to still collaborate. But it’s time the health department focuses on the health services through the county.

“If the county wants to put in that $6,000 from the general fund, that’s great,” Serene added.

Gann said FACT services are vital to the county, and made a plea to commissioners to maintain funding.

“We just received word we weren’t in the recommended budget, so we’re just hoping there’s room for us somewhere else,” Gann said. “It doesn’t matter to us where it comes from, we’re just asking for continued support.”

After conducting other business, commissioners returned to the FACT allocation.

“I feel uncomfortable with how it’s come about,” commission chair Roger Fleming said. “I had no intentions of cutting funding to the organizations we’ve always supported that we didn’t specifically talk about cutting.”

Commissioners Dan Holub and Randy Dallke said they were unaware of how the health department allocation for FACT was structured. Holub pointed to grant funds he said offset the FACT allocation.

“It wasn’t about tax dollars, I didn’t focus on it at all,” Holub said. “It was a wash in my mind, this goes out but this comes in so that takes care of it.”

“I point blank have not focused in on that part of it,” Dallke said. “I think the group is a very good group, but I do want to see more about it so I know more.”

County Clerk Tina Spencer said there were advantages to moving the allocation from the health department.

“All our other allocations are made out of either county general or sales tax, they’re grouped together and you can see clearly what the allocation is,” Spencer said. “To me it would make more sense and be more transparent and the public would be more aware of what we’re actually funding if we did it that way.”

Holub emphasized his support of continued funding.

“Not funding FACT is not in my mind. I want to fund FACT, I’m not even questioning that,” Holub said.

“I think that’s all three of our feelings, and the details of that are to be determined,” Fleming said.

“We can fix that problem between now and the first of the year without ever changing the mill levy, so we’re OK,” Holub said.

 

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