Thursday, January 27, 2011

Annual Report Part 3

How much outreach does St. Paul’s do? Judging from the annual report, the answer is not much. Of course, I should be quick to admit that a lot of outreach is undertaken by parishioners that does not show up in the financial information in the report. For example, food bank contributions and meals served at Shepherd’s Heart should not be overlooked. On the other hand, no money from the operating fund is allocated to outreach.

The financial operation of the Outreach Fund is shown on page 26. All income is from fund raisers, which facilitated donations to outreach projects totaling $4,300. ECW was responsible for a good deal more outreach, enabled in part by earning nearly $11,000 from the 2010 Canterbury Fair. The accounting on page 28 of the annual report shows $15,218.70 contributed to outreach projects. More details are provided in the ECW report on page 43, which makes it clear that some of the $2,422.05 listed as “parish outreach” might not qualify as money given to ease the pain of others. (Personally, I wouldn’t classify lounge repairs and a new sink as outreach.) Nonetheless, the work of ECW is impressive.

As an aside, I should mention that it is unhelpful that information about ECW spending is distributed between pages 28 and 43. It is particularly confusing, as community outreach is reported as $10,817.65 on one page and as $12,796.65 on the other. This is because the $1,979.00 UTO gift is listed separately on page 28 but is included in community outreach on page 43.

It is also unhelpful that the Outreach Fund and ECW accounting for fund raisers is done differently. In the Outreach Fund accounting, the net revenue from fund raisers is reported; one cannot learn how much it cost to stage the fund raisers. ECW, on the other hand, reports gross receipts and event expenses, thus providing a more transparent picture of its activities.

In the Operating Fund accounting, I cannot fail to mention the item titled “Mandated Outreach Commission.” The label is misleading in two ways. First, there is no “commission” involved here, no group of parishioners lead by a Vestry member overseeing funds to be spent. More significantly, however, the money we pay to the diocese, to The Episcopal Church, and to the Growth Fund, is, as the title suggests, mandatory. Additionally, it is not outreach, but necessary overhead required to run a national church. Paying to run the diocesan office is no more outreach than is paying to run the parish office. We pay into the Growth Fund because doing so is required to get loans from the fund, a service we continue to use.

As if to emphasize that our payments to the diocese are not the result of our beneficence, Bob Johnston’s treasurer’s report on page 13 contains this information and commentary:
As stated above, Diocesan Council reduced our assessment, based on an appeal request of $6,000. However, as we get closer to the end of the year, we realized that we needed to request a higher reduction, due to our lagging revenues. In the end, the Diocese granted a reduction of approximately $10,500. Thanks be to God!
Thanks be to God, indeed! It is embarrassing that one of the biggest parishes in the diocese feels compelled to plead for dispensations from the diocese while less well endowed parishes often struggle to pay their full assessments. The formula for computing assessments is based on income for the past three years, which is intended to compensate for the fact that parish income both increases and decreases. If St. Paul’s cannot pay its full assessment, perhaps our budgeting—and especially our spending—needs some rethinking.

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