A new approach to the Conference Budget
January 31, 2017 / By UNY Communications
The Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) has been trying to address concerns expressed by members of Annual Conference about how the conference budget is presented.
To that end, CF&A is developing a new approach to the budget. It is a work in progress, which will continue to be honed this year. But here are the highlights:
- Listening to What’s Needed
- Narrative and Timely Information
- Clarity over Spending and Giving
- Shrinking the Bottom Line
The concern is that the budget process takes place behind closed doors. And so, last year’s Annual Conference called for regional “listening sessions” in which any concerns about the development of the budget could be voiced. A listening session in each district, to take place in March has been scheduled as such:
- Oneonta District at Worcester UMC/Time: 2-4 p.m.
- Albany District at Newtonville UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
- Binghamton District at Endwell UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
- Cornerstone District at East Randolph UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
- Crossroads District at Liverpool First UMC/Time: 1-3 p.m.
- Finger Lakes District at Seneca Falls UMC/Time: 2-4 p.m.
- Northern Flow District at Gouverneur UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
- Mountain View District at Bath Centenary UMC/Time: 10 a.m.- noon
- Niagara Frontier District at Pendleton Center UMC/Time: 2-4 p.m.
- Adirondack District at Saratoga Springs UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
- Genesee Valley District at Rush UMC/Time: 10 a.m.-noon
- Mohawk District at New Hartford UMC/Time: 3-5 p.m.
These Listening Sessions will not be a repackaged Pre-Conference briefing on the budget. The purpose of the Listening Session is to listen—to the questions, concerns, and thoughts of the conference (about the information and process needed, to act upon the budget responsibly). While a member of both CF&A and the Conference Leadership Team will be present, their function will be to listen carefully (rather than persuade). A facilitator at each session will ensure that open questioning and real listening can happen.
Narrative and Timely Information
The concern is that, in the past, the budget has been presented in a manner that is difficult to understand, and without enough time to process the information.
Click here for the 2018 budget proposal, which is on the Conference website. Included are: (1) a typical line-by-line budget spreadsheet; and (2) a narrative budget that in one paragraph describes what each line-item is for. Answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” are being complied and will be posted before March 1.
Clarity over Spending and Giving
The concern is that our spending plans were mystifying, and that local churches have been unable to give fully toward our ministry shares.
The previous practice of “variable” spending plans has been done away with, altogether. “Variable” funding meant that a particular ministry might be approved for a certain amount, but receive only 35% (or some other percentage) of that amount. Our new budget eliminates all that. Instead, it establishes a set amount for each line item, so that each team knows at the outset the amount actually available to accomplish their ministry.
On the giving side, Ministry Shares have not been fully funded by our churches. This of course impacts our funding for conference ministry. In this past year, our local churches have made significant gains, and we believe that trend will continue. Our new budget makes room for “Ministry Shares at Full Giving”—and as those dollars come in, our Leadership Team will determine how to fund the ministries we have committed to more fully. Yet we need to be realistic, and believe it will help our individual ministry areas to have clarity about how much they actually have to work with each year.
Shrinking the Bottom Line
The concern is that we spend too much. In fact, ministry shares have remained steady at 14.5% of actual local church operating income the past six years. Individual church statistics may vary, depending on how the church’s income varies, but overall that is where we have been.
At the same time, the need to economize has been heard. Our 2018 budget proposal has decreased to just under $10 million, for the first time since the Upper New York Conference was created. The precise numbers are:
2016 Approved Budget $10,079,236
2017 Approved Budget $10,078,432
2018 Budget Proposal $ 9,995,000
We hope that these efforts help prepare us all for Annual Conference, starting June 1. CF&A will continue to be attentive to what it is, that our Conference needs.