calendar May 9, 2013 in Assembly, Communications, Finance

Balanced Budget Approved

The 2013 Assembly approved a balanced budget for fiscal 2014 that includes sending 50 percent of partnership support received to the churchwide organization.

“We are committed to being a robust, changing church, but not a diminished one,” finance committee chair Rev. Christopher Weidner told the Assembly.

Weidner called his presentation “Being the Church with Dollars and Sense,” and referring to the Assembly theme, “Show Me: We Want to See Jesus,” suggested that his theme might be “Show Me the Money: We Want to See Mission.” Reviewing the current fiscal year, he thanked the Assembly for being faithful in God’s Word and work, in blessing their communities by their dollars and cents, and by extending their ministry as partners with dollars and sense.

He noted that the Synod ended 2012 “in reasonably good shape, all things considered.” Highlights included upgrading to new financial software, bringing strong oversight to the Fund for Ministry, and carrying on a robust stewardship effort.

However, the Synod is also challenged by the continuing decline in Partnership Support from congregations, which has fallen by 4 percent per year for a number of years and dropped 6 percent in 2012.

“It’s been a difficult time,” he said. “We’re asking for your prayer – and your commitment” to continued partnership support.

“Each congregation counts,” he said. “Every gift is precious and essential to the body of Christ in this place.”

Despite improvements in the economic outlook, support for the Synod has fallen by $500,000 per year since 2008, he said. Synod income in 2012 was the same as it was in 1980 (not adjusted for inflation).

“We’ve made painful cuts,” he said, and further cuts will impact the effectiveness of the Synod. “We’ve cut staff, we’ve cut expenses, and I implore you to take some of these insights back to your councils.”

In response, the Finance Committee developed a budget which includes “restrained spending,” containing expenses, and proposing a 50 percent partner commitment to the ELCA in 2014. The committee also set a high priority to “long overdue increases to Synod staff.” The budget also reflects the priorities of maintaining operations and sustaining the Synod’s core missions. A modest surplus is projected for 2014, with the surplus committed to Fund for Mission.

Weidner said the finance committee and Synod Council “reluctantly” proposed reducing gifts to churchwide from 53.5% of partnership support income in 2012 to 53% in 2013 and 50% in 2014. The Synod has resisted reducing churchwide support, instead reducing staff, cutting program expenses, and not replenishing the Fund for Mission, he said.

Treasurer Janet Neff told the Assembly that the Synod has remained committed to mission congregations and supporting congregations in poverty despite steep reductions in grants from the ELCA for this purpose. Some of the reduced support would be redirected to supporting these congregations, she said.

The 2014 budget also calls for $25,000 to be reinvested in the Fund for Mission, along with providing for staff salary increases.

Weidner said that Synod staff have had no salary increases for “too many years,” a status which is “not fair or sustainable.”

— John Kahler and Bob Fisher