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Finance committee revises budget, discusses reserves

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continues to confront challenging budget figures – including reserves dipping very close to the required minimums and the possibility of scaling back the denomination’s work internationally because of a shortage of funds.

The board’s finance committee was not left with enough time at its April 16 meeting to discuss the Presbyterian Mission Program Fund (PMPF) and its unrestricted reserves, but intends to make that the main focus of a conference call within the next few weeks.

Discussion time for all the board’s committees have been cut short at this April 15-17 meeting in Louisville – condensed by the length of time (about six hours a day on both Wednesday and Thursday) the board has spent in closed session to discuss an external investigation into ethics violations involving four employees connected to the 1001 New Worshipping Communities program.

So the finance committee worked efficiently on some of the key issues before it.

Revised 2015-2016 budget
The board’s finance committee on April 16 approved adjusted Presbyterian Mission Agency budgets for 2015 and 2016 (those revised budgets still need approval from the full board). Those budget adjustments will draw more from the PMPF reserves – $989,592 more in 2015 and $811,991 for 2016. That brings the Presbyterian mission budgets to these totals:

  • For 2015: A $76.6 million mission budget, balanced by pulling $4.96 million from PMPF.
  • For 2016: A $78.0 million budget, balanced with $4.74 million taken from PMPF. 

Some finance committee members have pushed for time to discuss the PMPF reserves in depth – “we absolutely need to make this a top priority,” said Ken Godshall of Kentucky – but on this day, there wasn’t enough time. Chad Herring, chair of the finance committee, pledged to make that discussion the focus of an upcoming conference call (likely on May 8), saying he didn’t want to rush the discussion because “we need to give ourselves the time and the energy to do it well.”

It’s clear, however, that there’s trouble ahead:

  • Projections are for the PMPF reserves to be roughly $700,000 above the required minimums at the end of both 2015 and 2016.
  • After that – starting in 2017 – it doesn’t appear the PC(USA) will have enough money left to be able to tap the unrestricted reserves to balance the budget, although one budget document showed a need to pull roughly $3.9 million in reserve funds in both 2017 and 2018.
  • The budget shortfalls already are causing problems. Unless World Mission raises an additional $925,000 this year, four retiring mission co-workers won’t be replaced in 2016 and five more would be pulled from service before the end of their terms. In 2016, World Mission needs another $4.5 million, or roughly 40 of 162 mission co-workers would lose their funding.