Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fulfilling the Vision, Part 5

My fourth post on Fulfilling the Vision is here. My sixth post is here.
I only just got around to reading the rector’s letter in the June issue of The Messenger the other day. That letter contains this astounding and slightly ungrammatical parenthetical:
Note: a capital campaign is usually conducted about once every ten years, parishioners are asked to make a gift that can be paid over a period of several years, and much of the giving comes from one’s capital; with annual giving, parishioners are asked to make a gift to be paid over one year, with most of the giving coming from one’s income.
Apparently, this rather fanciful explanation is designed to divert attention from the fact that more than 40% of the proposed so-called capital campaign is for current operational expenses rather than for what are generally called capital improvements. No one should feel diminished by an intention to contribute to Fulfilling the Vision out of current earnings; most of us won’t be selling our Apple stock to contribute to St. Paul’s.

Why am I making such a point of whether Fulfilling the Vision is really a capital campaign? For two reasons. First, people should realize that much of the proposed expenditures will leave no tangible legacy. We are planning to spend $425,000 on “ministry enhancements” over three years. This money will mostly go for salaries. We have been given hardly any description of what these “enhancements” will look like.

There is an exception in the case of the $75,000 for “music ministry.” We are talking about hiring a musician primarily support a Sunday evening service for which there is no demonstrable demand and for which the primary audience is said to consist of non-parishioners. When the money has been spent—and financing through a special campaign makes it less likely that we will be evaluating the project as we go along—what will we have to show for our efforts? Spending this money is a wild gamble. Perhaps we can afford a wild gamble every now and then, but we seem to have $425,000 worth of wild gambles in the proffered package that is Fulfilling the Vision, and we should ask ourselves if that is simply too much risk to assume.

The second problem with the way the “capital campaign” is structured is the effect it may have after it is over and done with. Seemingly, “ministry enhancements” will result in new hires or additional work hours for existing staff. When all the money is spent, are we going to have to add an additional $140,000 or so each year to maintain the same staffing level? Are we projecting that our income will have grown to allow us to do that? Or will we simply fire everyone that we’ve hired, in spite of the fact that we have created increased expectations respecting the services the church provides?

There is even reason to worry about the $200,000 proposed for the “facilities maintenance fund.” Admittedly, St. Paul’s has a deferred maintenance problem. Repairs that should have been made and paid for out of current funds have not been made, and I assume that the fund is intended to help us catch up on maintenance. It is not unreasonable to bring maintenance up-to-date through a special campaign. There is going to be a temptation to spend the fund and decrease the, building maintenance line in the annual budget, however. The result could be that, when the facilities maintenance fund is exhausted, we will resume our practice of deferring maintenance due to lack of sufficient funds in the operating budget.

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