The 2016 General Assembly will be asked to increase the per capita rate for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from the current level of $7.12 per member in 2016 to $7.33 per member in 2017 and $7.55 per member in 2018.
That would be an increase of 3 percent in each of those years. It’s built on the assumption that the PC(USA) would lose 75,000 members in both 2017 and 2018.
And it’s an effort to avoid further budget cuts at the Office of the General Assembly that church leaders contend in the recommendation would “compromise our ability to effectively serve the church as we are mandated.”
That recommendation for a per capita increase won approval from two entities Feb. 3 – the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the executive committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency board, meeting jointly in Louisville.
The General Assembly sets the per capita rate – so that recommendation will go to the General Assembly in Portland in June. Per capita is used to help pay a range of expenses involving General Assembly administration – everything from the biennial meeting itself to ecumenical outreach, travel for the General Assembly moderator and training of mid council stated clerks.
The financial picture is challenging. If per capita is not increased, the Office of the General Assembly would run through its reserves within a few years, said John Wood, in presenting the financial report.
“We can do this,” Wood said. “We’re on a pretty sturdy arc as we head into some tough times, but it’s going to take all of us. … It can be accomplished. It’s going to be hard. But perhaps it’s going to be our finest hour in hard times.”
A per capita increase may be difficult, however, for presbyteries that already are financially squeezed. Marilyn Gamm, who is chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and also transitional executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Riverside in California, warned: “This won’t play well in presbyteries.”
The report presenting the recommendation states that the projected costs for Office of the General Assembly operations for 2017 are $12,647,188 and projected funding is $11,770,982. “This would require the use of $876,203 in reserves. Without the per capita increase and the expense reductions, the needed reserves would be $1.5 million dollars.”
For 2018, projected Office of the General Assembly expenses for operations are $12,738,784. Projected funding is budgeted at $11,551,195. “This will require the use of $1,187,589 in reserves to break even,” the report states. “The reserve need without the per capita rate increase and cost savings is $1.86 million dollars.”
The report also addresses the possibility of further cutting the size of the Office of the General Assembly staff in order to save money.
“We also believe that more staff reductions at this time would compromise our ability to effectively serve the church as we are mandated,” the report states. “Therefore we have not included any staff reduction in this proposed budget. We are requesting that the per capita rate increase modestly by 3% for 2017 and 2018. No single issue was debated more thoroughly. Our proposal of cost reductions, per capita rate increase, and the use of reserves, provides OGA with time to participate in the potential reorganization discussions and further discern its own delivery of services. We understand that further reductions might become necessary in the future. We strongly believe that now is not that time.”
In 2015, OGA had a revenue budget of $12.58 million, but actually collected $12.07 million – a shortfall of $511,778. The reasons for that: per capita collection fell under budget by $176,000; investment income was $144,000 under budget; and there were unrealized investment losses, not budgeted, of $189,000.
Expenses also came in more than $954,000 lower than projected in 2015.
“In 2013 OGA reduced staffing and costs,” the report states. The report estimates the real dollar costs of budget reductions made at OGA from 2013 through 2018 as $2.8 million.