Sunday, February 20, 2011

Report from the Treasurer Q&A

There was a good turnout for the Q&A session at church today with treasurer Bob Johnston. Bob handed out a copy of the 2011 budget, which, unlike the version distributed at the annual meeting, included details. Those details even included a breakdown of personnel expenses, though not with figures broken down by employee. (You can view the handout here.)

The first question asked involved whether the personnel figures presented reflected salary cuts. Bob answered that they did—a 5.35% cut for lay staff and a 10.7% cut in salary and housing allowance for clergy.

Another question asked about mandatory outreach (diocesan/Episcopal Church assessment plus Growth Fund contribution). The figure is higher for 2011 than for 2010 because the parish was granted a more than $10,000 reduction last year. Bob indicated that we intended to ask for about a $1,500 reduction this year. (Out of perversity, I asked if we would ask for an assessment increase if we received more funds than expected. Bob didn’t think so. The assessment is based on a three-year average of income, which is intended to account for ups and downs in parish fortunes. One wonders how well we are planning if we have to ask for a reduction in assessment each year, particularly if we are already planning to do so in February. Perhaps we should be cutting expenditures instead.)

I asked if the $25,000 withdrawal from the Contingency Fund shouldn’t be considered operating income. Bob said that it was money we had already paid assessment on and therefore should not be considered operating income. He was uncertain about whether money taken from endowment and used for operating expenses should be considered operating income.

I said that my reading of the instructions for filling out the parochial report would require the $25,000 to be considered operating income, as would income to funds like the Altar Guild Fund.

A number of questions and comments involved possible economies. People asked if we could reduce utility costs, for example. One person noted that many tasks now performed by staff used to be done by volunteers. (Apparently, the youth program was once run by parents and other adults.) The cost of special musical events was questioned, although non-worship-related musical programs seem to be financed through Friends of Music. Someone asked why Friends of Music didn’t pay off any remaining debt from the organ installation. (No one had an answer to that.)

It was pointed out that a committee was formed in 2009 to develop strategies for eliminating budget deficits. Bob noted that the parish is now putting together a finance committee to provide such advice. He said the report from the earlier committee would be forwarded to the new one.

It was noted that we are losing money on Coffee/Coke. Bob suggested that providing coffee was primarily responsible for this. In the discussion, it came out that whatever fund donut sale money goes into is not represented at all in the annual report.

A question was asked about support of Old St. Luke’s. Lou answered that he thought we had provided no support for Old St. Luke’s since before he arrived. That church is financed primarily through wedding revenues.

I noted that none of the funds other than the Operating Fund had a budget in the annual report. Bob noted that, if any of those funds do have budgets, the Vestry never sees them. I then asked about the Refuge Service Fund, which, of course, has no budget in the annual report. If we are eventually to finance this service ourselves, we need to know its cost. What, I asked, has the diocese given us this year. Lou indicated that the diocese has contributed $12,000, with the promise of giving more this year. Someone suggested that we should have periodic updates on the Refuge Service Fund. Someone else suggested that the same would be helpful for the Children and Youth Ministries Fund.

A number of people expressed discontent at the proliferation of miscellaneous funds, which makes it difficult to get a clear picture of the financial state of the parish. Lou remarked that, except for ECW, the Vestry has to sign off on expenditures from these funds. (I’m not sure that response quite addressed the identified problem.)

Bob insisted that funds outside the Operating Fund were not set up to avoid diocesan assessment, though he seemed to admit that the arrangement might have that effect.

A question was raised concerning the cost of color handouts. Bob noted that the 8:45 bulletin cost about $45/week, the Refuge bulletin cost about $4/week (bulletins are used for more than one week), and the bulletin for the other services—that bulletin is usually black & white—costs $24/week. The parish newsletter costs about $150/month to print on our leased copiers.

I asked why our consolidation loan from the diocese, which I admitted was a good thing, was for more than the remaining principal of our two loans. Bob answered that the PNC loan had a provision for a prepayment penalty.

Someone asked why two people on the staff were involved in ministry for children and youth, and why we have so many sextons. Bob explained the division of labor and explained that we only pay sextons for the work done; we may have more sextons than formerly, but they are not being paid for more work.

Several comments and questions involved outreach. We are, of course, spending no money on outreach, though many parishioners are contributing personally to outreach projects. We are certainly not giving the 10% of our income to outreach, as the parish once voted to do.

I asked if the $19,000 or so difference between budgeted pledges and pledges in hand had a reasonable chance of being eliminated. Bob answered that Valerie had studied who has pledged in the past, not pledged this year, but is still contributing, and she concluded that the gap would, indeed, be closed.

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