By Jessica Connor
In an effort to achieve a more sustainable budget for the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church, finance officials have announced plans to move toward a budget that is at or near 15 percent of total conference average net funds by 2015.
The goal is cited in Report 9 from the S.C. Conference Council of Finance and Administration, distributed in the 2011 pre-conference packet received in May. The report states that the 2012 proposed budget of $17.2 million moves the conference toward that 15 percent goal.
The 2012 proposed budget is 17.23 percent of conference average net funds.
Conference Treasurer Tony Prestipino said the 2012 percentage reflects a trend that has been developing slowly over the past 20 years with the exception of a slight increase in 2006 and 2007. He said the 15 percent goal attempts to move the conference toward a reasonable, manageable, understandable percentage that is more conservative than in the past, but isn’t an immediate, draconian funding slash.
“I think the conference is anxious for a decrease in apportionments, and we’re sensing churches want to see a smaller budget,” Prestipino said. “But we’re trying not to cut it all in one year – it’s a gradual cut.”
Total average net funds is a reflection of what the local church is spending on certain key items in any given year; apportionments are a percentage of the four year average of net funds. Looking at the past few years, the 2009 budget of $17.5 million reflected 19.41 percent of the net funds. The 2010 budget of $16.9 million reflected 17.95 percent of the net funds. And the 2011 budget of $17.4 million reflected 17.81 percent of net funds.
Prestipino said next year, the percentage could be 16.75 percent.
“It’s going to impact everything – less conference money to boards and agencies, staff salaries, positions. We’ll see change across the board,” Prestipino said. “Some programs might sacrifice more than others. But ultimately, we won’t see all the program money cut and the administration bulked up.”
In a video released in district training sessions across the conference, CF&A Chair the Rev. Ed McDowell said the board is being intentional in trying to forge a new paradigm.
“CF&A is also very cognizant of the realities many local churches are being faced with today. Many are having a tough time,” McDowell said, pointing out that CF&A is continuing to be frugal in how local churches are dealing with stretched resources.
McDowell said CF&A is trying to be discerning and cooperative in its deliberations.
“Please be reminded – we are working collaboratively together undergirding this conference and church of ours with a budget that is sustainable,” he said.
Prestipino said the new goal attempts to establish trust, and CF&A hopes that through new trust, the conference can move toward a goal of getting 100 percent in apportionments. After all, the conference exists to make disciples for Jesus Christ by equipping its local churches for the ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church, all to the glory of God.
“We live and breathe by what the local church is doing. We mirror them. And if their situation deteriorates or improves, the conference will mirror that,” Prestipino said.