Good Samaritan Ministries Executive Director Leesa Stephens asked Brown County Commissioners Tuesday to change their minds about reducing the amount of money the county proposes to give to the agency for the 2017-’18 fiscal year.
     Stephens said a misunderstanding on her part of the budget process led commissioners to believe GSM doesn’t need the money — but it does, she said.
    Commissioners took no action and the budget for the fiscal year is not complete, but Commissioner Gary Worley said he hopes commissioners will find money in the general fund to avoid what is now a proposed 66 percent reduction.
    The county gave GSM $14,000 for the current fiscal year, but proposes giving the agency $4,800 in the new budget.
    Stephens said because she is new to the county’s budget process, she did not understand that she needed to make a written request to the county to release the funds the county had budgeted in the 2016-’17 fiscal year. Because she did not do that, GSM did not receive county funds until August, after Stephens realized she needed to make the request.
    That led commissioners to believe GSM didn’t need the money, Stephens said, so the proposed budget ended up with the reduced allocation.
    GSM is on a January-December budget year, and still had several months remaining of its 2017 budget when it finally received the county funds. Stephens said. “I wouldn’t say we hadn’t needed it,” Stephens said. “We just hadn’t needed it yet.”
    The county’s allocation to Good Samaritan is used for what GSM calls Direct Aide, which is used to help people with expenses including rent and utilities, Stephens said.
    GSM’s total Direct Aid budget last year was $79,000, and $29,200 of that amount was not earmarked for another specific program, Stephens said. “The county’s grant is a huge part” of GSM’s Direct Aid, she said.
     Ron Keener, pastor of North Lake Community Church, asked commissioners to restore the funds to GSM. Keener asked commissioners to “rethink this partnership with Good Samaritan Ministries … let’s pick the ball up, let’s carry the ball to the goal line because there are a lot of people in need in Brown County.”
    Keener said his church works closely with GSM and serves as a satellite for GSM’s food pantry.
    Commissioner Joel Kelton said when GSM’s entire budget is considered — about $550,000 in 2016 — the proposed reduction “is a very small percentage of that. … It’s really not that big of an effect.”
    Stephens invited commissioners to visit GSM and look at its books. “Our prayer is that we end up $1 in the black,” Stephens said. “We’re not running a budget surplus right now.”
    When asked how GSM’s budget will be affected if the county doesn’t restore the proposed cut, Stephens said, “It means we’ll say ‘no’ a lot sooner” to helping people.