The finance and audit committees of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board met by conference call Aug. 14, in part to hear year-to-date financial reports and plan for the board’s meeting in Louisville Sept. 23-25.
After a closed session, the Finance Committee reported that it had approved advancing $120,000 from the capital reserve budget for emergency roof replacements at the Stony Point Center in Stony Point, New York. The money is to be repaid over 10 years, and the proposal also will go to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board in September for its consideration.
Among other points of discussion:
Reserves. Board members continue to be concerned about the low levels of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s unrestricted reserve funds – funds which are expected to run dry by the end of 2016, if not sooner. At the end of June, the PC(USA)’s unrestricted reserves stood just over $6 million – about $936,000 above the required minimum of 30 percent of the unified portion of the General Assembly Mission Budget. That required minimum stood at $5.14 million as of June 30.
Committee members raised questions about how much of the current reserves are liquid – meaning they actually could be drawn on – and what portion is receivables owed by the Stony Point and Ghost Ranch conference centers. One report showed those receivables to be more than $4.5 million: $1.99 million from Stony Point and $2.88 million from Ghost Ranch. “We’re pretty close to the edge,” said audit committee member Molly Baskin.
While there is room for conversation on the details, “it highlights that we are basically running out of unrestricted dollars,” said Chad Herring, a teaching elder from Missouri who chairs the finance committee.
Another point that may be up for discussion at the September meeting: whether to ask the 2016 General Assembly to make a change in the unrestricted reserve requirements. The Finance Committee also plans to meet with representatives of the Presbyterian Foundation to discuss the financial performance of the PC(USA)’s investments.
The next year will be a time of significant change for the PC(USA). First, the board needs to nominate an interim executive director for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, to replace Linda Valentine, who stepped down July 10. Until then, Earline Williams and Barry Creech have stepped in as temporary co-managers. The board may present a candidate for interim director to the 2016 General Assembly in Portland.
There’s also discussion underway about possible consolidation or streamlining of some of the denomination’s six national agencies.
Expenses. For the first half of the year, expenses included nearly $828,000 in legal fees related to the 1001 New Worshiping Communities investigation.
Denise Hampton, the PC(USA)’s controller, said those expenses were paid to the Alston & Bird law firm, which the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board’s executive committee hired in late 2014 to do an investigation of a grant paid from 1001 funds to an unauthorized corporation set up in California. All the grant money has been returned, and Linda Valentine, the former executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, has said no one involved acted for personal gain. Legal fees related to the investigation continue to roll in, however, and Hampton said the money paid so far to Alston & Bird does not reflect all the legal costs connected to the inquiry.
Marilyn Gamm, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, has said the legal fees already exceed $1 million. Gamm has said the denomination’s insurance is helping to pay attorneys’ costs for two defamation suits which former employees brought against the PC(USA) in connection with the inquiry and that no per capita funds have been spent on that.
Another expense reported: $82,296 for reprinting promotional materials for the One Great Hour of Sharing campaign. The new materials were ordered after some Presbyterians criticized the original campaign for including racial stereotypes.