LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Mission Agency board voted April 28 to approve mission budgets for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 2017 and 2018. The budgets represent a 15 percent decrease from the 2016 mission budget.
While details of which programs will be affected by the cutbacks weren’t announced, Tony De La Rosa, interim executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, has said fewer than 10 employees will lose their jobs, and a handful of programs will be eliminated. Supervisors are expected to notify those employees on April 29 – so that’s likely to be a difficult day at the denomination’s national offices in Louisville.
As of April 18, the agency had 269 employees, including full and part-time workers and term employees.
Board member Ken Godshall, representing the board’s Mission Work Plan Implementation Team, told the board April 28 that “five underperforming programs” would be cut in the new budgets. He said the only one publicly identified so far is the Small Church Residency Program, which the denomination announced in March would close by the end of 2017 because participation in the program was low.
Godshall also said that funding is sufficient so that all of the PC(USA)’s mission co-workers currently deployed by World Mission will be able to stay in the field.
Godshall said that “difficult decisions were made” in crafting the budgets, and that employees losing their jobs will be treated as respectfully as possible, including thanking them at a chapel service at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville on May 4.
Both the board and its finance committee met in closed session before the vote to discuss the specific impact of the budget cuts – and the vote to approve the budgets came with no public discussion.
The board voted to approve a mission budget of $63.53 million for 2017 and of $63.45 million for 2018. The budgets also will need approval from the General Assembly when it meets in Portland in June.
This is one of a series of budget cuts and layoffs the Presbyterian Mission Agency has endured going back to at least the early 2000s – with revenues and membership in the denomination both declining, and about 80 percent of funding now coming from funds that are restricted in use by the donors and only 20 percent from unrestricted receipts.
Here are more details:
- The 2017 and 2018 budgets are more than $11.2 million less than the revised mission budget for 2016 of $74.82 million.
- About 80 percent of the budget comes from receipts restricted by donors – $45.6 million of the $57.8 million in receipts in 2017, and $45.9 million of the $57.6 million in 2018.
- In each of those years, more than $5.6 million is built into the budget from restricted receipts from prior years – most of that in donations to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance in response to disasters in particular parts of the world, and for which the funds are still being spent as part of the PC(USA)’s long-term response in those areas.
- The budgets were balanced without pulling any funds from unrestricted reserves. They also were built using a new policy regarding unrestricted reserves (a policy which the General Assembly will be asked to approve in June).
- The budgets are based on what Earline Williams, the PC(USA)’s chief financial officer, has described as conservative assumptions about future revenue – based on historic trends, not the denomination’s fundraising goals.
To attempt to minimize the impact on staff, ministry directors held off on hiring in 2015 as positions became vacant, Williams said. That resulted in 54 vacant positions – plus 26 employees opted to take voluntary separation packages offered earlier this year to workers who were at least 60 years old and had at least five years of consecutive service with the PC(USA).
Williams told the finance committee that the agency will need to fill some of those 80 positions, with hiring expected to begin later this year. Hiring is expected for about 35 positions. Williams cautioned, however, “We are probably not rehiring for the same position descriptions.” In the 2017-18 budgets, “we have restructured work” and the corresponding job descriptions.
De La Rosa has said that the ministry areas funded each align with the three directional goals of the Mission Work Plan:
- Evangelism and discipleship;
- Servant leader formation; and
- Justice and reconciliation.
He also said the budget was built using zero-based budgeting – starting by considering mission work funded by restricted funds the agency knew would be available, and then determining what could be funded with resources available after that.
Another factor, De La Rosa said, was whether particular programs potentially could be accomplished more effectively or efficiently by other Presbyterian entities, such as mission networks, mid councils or local congregations, or whether it was work the national staff was uniquely positioned to do.
This budget also takes a new approach to calculating reserves.
Up until now, the unrestricted reserve fund has been called the Presbyterian Mission Program Fund, or PMPF. In 2016, the budget was balanced in part by pulling $4.2 million from unrestricted reserves – but board members have been cautioning for months that those reserves would run dry by 2017.
In 1990, the General Assembly imposed a requirement that the PC(USA) keep in the PMPF reserve a minimum of 30 percent of the unified portion of the General Assembly Mission Budget. As of March 31, the PMPF held $8.46 million, or $3.51 million over the required minimum.
The proposed mission budgets for 2017 and 2018 are built using a different approach – setting aside at least three months of operating expenses as a reserve. The Presbyterian Mission Agency board voted in February to ask the assembly to change the rules for determining how much money it needs to keep in reserve.
For 2017, the unrestricted reserve will be at least $3.04 million (25 percent of the $12.18 million in unrestricted expenses), and the minimum restricted reserve at $5.06 million (with restricted expenses of $51.34 million).