Two committees of the Presbyterian Mission Agency board met by conference call Nov. 11 to discuss third-quarter financial performance for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – a small glimpse into the denomination’s bigger-picture financial difficulties. More budget cutting is expected this spring as the board shapes the mission budgets for 2017 and 2018.
Here are some highlights of Presbyterian Mission Agency finances included in the discussion by the board’s finance and audit committees:
- As of September 30, 2015, unrestricted receipts were about 2 percent under the projected budget (about $164,000) and restricted receipts 3.3 percent under budget (about $1.3 million), according to controller Denise Hampton. One reason: Investment income on short-term bonds fell below what had been projected.
- Restricted giving from congregations was about 12 percent over budget – with the money being used to support mission co-workers serving overseas – but giving to the PC(USA)’s Special Offerings fell short by about 4 percent (about $368,000) of what had been projected, and below the giving levels for 2014 by about $250,000.
- Expenses for the first three quarters came in about 11 percent ($6 million) less than what had been budgeted, in part because of staffing vacancies and the timing of grants being made.
- Extra commitment opportunities (designated giving for particular causes) was up about $500,000 over budget, in part because of gifts given for work in South Sudan, Egypt and Nicaragua.
Board members continue to ask questions about how the Presbyterian Mission Agency allocates costs for overhead or shared expenses, such as insurance, building maintenance, legal expenses and more. Chad Herring, chair of the finance committee, indicated he’ll set time on the docket for an upcoming meeting to talk about this – either by conference call or at the board’s Feb. 3-5, 2016 meeting.
Board member Ken Godshall said the committee members previously have looked at the practices for other nonprofits and at whether 10 percent is a fair number. Godshall said he wants to know “how much money we are devoting to administrative and general expenses … just to make sure we are a lean and mean fighting machine.”
Earline Williams, the PC(USA)’s chief financial officer, said particular ministry areas sometimes fail to take into account that her office has staff members dedicated to accounting for those areas – not considering those expenses to be part of the costs of those divisions’ act of doing business.
“I think this is a hugely important point” – to make sure there’s a common understanding of what those costs are and how they’re allocated, said board member Eileen Lindner. “Few things can be more destructive than this kind of debate over common services.” If that’s “an enormous disincentive to donors. It’s very hard to call that back” once it’s been said.
Another ongoing point of discussion is what’s included in the Presbyterian Mission Program Fund – the denomination’s unrestricted reserve fund, which now stands about $1.8 million over the required minimum, but is expected to run out of money by the end of 2016.
One question that’s been raised repeatedly is how much of what’s included in that reserve fund is money that has been loaned to the Stony Point Center in New York and the Ghost Ranch Center in New Mexico that might not be a “liquid” asset. The report states that the $6.9 million now in the reserve fund includes an estimated $1.5 million to $2.4 million owed by Stony Point “which is being reviewed and evaluated for collectability by the Legal and Finance and Accounting Offices.”
No equivalent figure is given for Ghost Ranch, in part because of pending property transactions and because of revenues received from the sale of water rights from the property could potentially be applied to the amount that Ghost Ranch owes.