Weakened addition: proposed budget does not add up

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A statement from Ms. Diane Pollard and Bishop Stephen Lane, chairpersons of the Program Budget and Finance Committee about the 2013-2015 Budget for the Episcopal Church:

*At last week’s Province I Synod Pre-Convention meeting, I presented the

draft proposed budget for 2013-2015. Present with me were Province I’s Executive Council members, members of Program, Budget and Finance, PB&F Chair Diane Pollard, the President of the House of Deputies, the Secretary of General Convention, and Del Glover, Chair of Executive Council’s subcommittee on finance. In the course of my presentation and the subsequent question and answer period, it became clear that there are a some internal inconsistencies and at least one error in the draft proposed

budget.

The draft proposed budget is balanced at $104.9 million. However, there is an internal inconsistency related to the Development Office. The amount proposed as income for the Development Office is $3.7 million and the amount proposed for expense is $2.5 million. If the the two numbers are brought into alignment, either by decreasing income or increasing expense, then the budget will be unbalanced by about $1.2 million.

There is also an apparent inconsistency in the sum of the amounts proposed for Grants and Covenants. The total listed is $15 million. Adding the internal line items results in a sum of something less. When I do the math it’s about $14 million, but it’s not clear at this time if the active spreadsheet would correct this seeming error in the pdf copy of the draft proposed budget.

Finally, the amount of $286,438 for Formation and Vocation is an error. Although Executive Council was clearly reducing the amount for this part of the budget, the actual number was lost in the complex process of combining the 15% and 19% cases the Executive Council used to build the draft proposed budget. The budget was adopted and Executive Council adjourned before the error was discovered. Questions have been asked regarding what the “real” number might have been. Council members at the Province I Synod suggested something in the range of $1.9 million. Other knowledgeable persons suggested $1 million. PB&F will need to address this matter at

General Convention. Restoring funds to Formation and Vocation will require taking funds from other places.

Diane Pollard and I are both very aware of the concern many have about errors in the draft budget. However, we want to emphasize that this is the Draft Proposed Budget that was submitted by Executive Council in January to the Joint Standing Committee on Program Budget and Finance. This draft budget cannot be changed until the General Convention meets in Indianapolis in July. In July the budget will be changed not only to reflect the numerical corrections, but it will also be changed to reflect General Convention Committee decisions, hearing discussions and other input that has and is being received.

We encourage your participation in the Provincial Synod meetings that are being conducted at this time as well as the hearings at General Convention, the House of Deputies online forum, and our blogspot which can be found at here. Thank you to all for your continued support.

Steve Lane and Diane Pollard

PB&F*

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Dave Paisley
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Dave Paisley

So Ann, what you're saying is they could have come up with a more coherent budget by throwing darts blindfolded...

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

More info on process: This is my understanding -- the Executive Council did not get a budget with line items in it until the night before Council was supposed to vote on the budget. Up to that point all conversation was about priorities, abstractions, and rough assignments of numbers in broad categories.

Then after they did vote on a line item budget, the Church Center posted to the extranet a budget that took about about 40 percent of the 800 line items and replaced them with language saying that this line would be allocated in consultation with the executive team. (does anyone know who is on that team?)

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

I believe the primary reason for this breakdown in the process is the shortened meeting times - the EC does not have the luxury of looking closely at these items when all together and are obviously not doing the homework needed (maybe for lack of timely distribution of data) to make decisions when they are together in one physical space.

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Dave Paisley
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Dave Paisley

Hey, I hard there are these things called "applications" or "programs" that can be used on "computers" to add numbers automatically.

I think the more technical term is "spreadsheet" and I believe some obscure company in a far flung city like, oh, I think near Seattle, called um, Microsift, or something like that, actually has a working prototype that can be purchased for a small sum (certainly less than the millions of dollars by which the budget is in error). Perhaps the committee could look into adding it into the budget for next triennium (there may even be a newer, more up to date version of the program by then, and it might even be in more common use - bonus!).

Seriously, the tiniest of parishes would be embarrassed to be this inept, never mind the national office.

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Wendy Barrie
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Wendy Barrie

I am deeply grateful to Ms. Pollard and Bishop Lane for publicly confirming what had been rumored within hours of the publication of the draft triennial budget. Now in the light of day we can work together to answer the question of how the needs of the church and its mission might best be met. In the area of Formation and Vocation, we now have the opportunity and the obligation to strengthen networks and identify resources and programs that will positively impact the health and growth of the Episcopal Church well beyond the next three years.

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Jim Naughton
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Jim Naughton

The budget process last triennium was worse than the budget process this time around. It might be worth figuring out why this happens. I don't think it can be attributed to free floating structural issues. At some point, some specific people take or don't take some specific actions. Possibly for the best of intentions. Possibly for reasons of which we are unaware. I think it would be useful for the church to have more information in this regard.

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Susan Snook
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Susan Snook

The fact that something as important as the draft triennial budget could be so filled with errors speaks volumes about how dysfunctional our budget processes are. Reform is desperately needed - the way we spend our money is too important to be subject to errors like this. I suppose the good side of it is that the outrageous problems with this budget (increasing administrative costs in a time of budget-cutting, at the expense of mission) got enough people riled up that I believe that real change may finally be on the horizon.

Susan Snook

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