Friday, June 26, 2009

Budget Chair: Triennium Income Could Fall by $9M

From The Living Church-

The three-year, $162-million draft budget submitted by Executive Council will likely be reduced by the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance (PB&F) before it is submitted for approval to General Convention on July 15, according to Pan Adams-McCaslin, PB&F chairwoman.

In an interview with Episcopal News Service (ENS) June 24, Ms. McCaslin said income could be $9 million less than previously estimated. During the 2006-2009 triennium, Executive Council was forced to reduce $152 million approved by the 75th General Convention on several occasions. For example, at two meetings during 2007, council reduced the budget a total of $5.6 million.

The draft budget approved by Executive Council in January assumed an annual increase of 8 percent in endowment income, and that diocesan income would increase by 1 percent in 2010 and 2 percent in both 2011 and 2012. Under the Executive Council draft budget dioceses would contribute $96 million while endowment income would contribute $29 million. Historically, other income sources have included government grants, advertising and subscription fees from the monthly newspaper, Episcopal Life, and income from renters at the Episcopal Church Center.

However, Ms. McCaslin said that the committee has been conducting an ongoing survey of bishops and diocesan financial officers. They were asked how realistic the income assumptions made six months earlier by Executive Council now appear. Those who already have responded have been “very candid” in their replies, she said.

Kurt Barnes, treasurer for The Episcopal Church, told ENS that “church center staff have not been formally asked to submit adjusted budget requests,” but the PB&F had previously asked department heads to participate in an exercise in which it was assumed that the available funds were 50 percent less than in the Executive Council draft budget.

New revenue projections will be released after PB&F meets in Anaheim, Calif., on July 6, two days before General Convention begins. PB&F will hold three open hearings during convention: one on budget priorities July 7 and two on spending and revenue decisions July 9 and 10. A final vote is expected July 16, the day before convention adjourns.

Ms. McCaslin said the committee is concerned that reduced revenue projections are accompanied by pre-filed resolutions which call for “several million dollars” Canonical and corporate expenses must be funded by canon. These include the office of the Presiding Bishop, the office of the president of the House of Deputies, and the General Convention office, which includes the committees, commissions, agencies and boards charged with carrying out priorities established by convention.

“The tension that PB&F faces is, of the gifts that we have to share, how do we make prayerful decisions on funding the ‘have-tos’ and the ‘wants?’,” she said, and added the committee was “not going into convention in fear.

“We are going in as educated as possible about the draft budget that was approved by Executive Council, as educated as possible about the proposed resolutions with funding implications—both revenue-specific and those with funding implied—in order that PB&F can listen to the convention and the Holy Spirit so that the mission of the church is fulfilled and not political agendas,” she said.

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