Significant per capita increase proposed

LOUISVILLE – The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the executive committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board are proposing a significant increase in the per capita rate for 2019 and 2020 – an increase from $7.73 per member in 2018 to $10.71 in 2019 and to $11.45 per member in 2020.

If approved, that would amount to a 39 percent increase from 2018 to 2019 and a 7 percent increase from 2019 to 2020. However, spending decisions that the 2018 General Assembly may make could also affect the per capita budget for 2019 and 2020.

(Source of charts: Per capita budget presentation at the February 7 meeting)

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (meeting Feb. 6-8 in St. Louis) and the executive committee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (the board is meeting Feb. 7-9 in Louisville) will discuss the proposal jointly in a video conference call Feb. 7. Those two entities are expected to vote Feb. 8 on whether to approve the per capita budgets for 2019 and 2020, along with a revised per capita budget for 2018, and to approve the per capita increase.

The General Assembly then would consider those budgets when it meets in St. Louis June 16-23.

The proposed increase would lift the General Assembly per capita budget from $11.5 million in 2018 to $15.5 million in 2019 and $15.8 million in 2020. That would also give a “break even” funding level – adding more than $66,000 to per capita reserves in 2020, compared to this year, when more than $2.6 million is being withdrawn from reserves to cover costs.

Why the increase? J. Herbert Nelson, stated clerk of the PC(USA), has spoken about his sense that the denomination needs to do more – to support mid councils, educate members and provide leadership training, for example.

There are rising costs – for travel and meeting planning, salary costs and more.

And Nelson wants to explore new ideas, such as the Hands and Feet initiative to increase Presbyterian engagement in cities where the General Assembly is being held.

As part of a connectional system, per capita is the rate based on membership that Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations are asked to send to presbyteries, and mid councils to the national church. Per capita is the primary source of funding for the Office of the General Assembly, and supports work ranging from General Assembly operations to ecumenical relations to the Presbyterian Historical Society to the work of assembly-created entities such as the Way Forward Commission and travel costs for the co-moderators.

General Assembly per capita also provides some funding for the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA), to cover ecclesiastical functions that PMA performs.

Information provided for this meeting states that General Assembly per capita provides 1.9 percent of the overall funding for PMA, and that PMA also receives a “fair share of the mission support expenses” for the work of OGA, such as communications, human resources, finance and accounting and information technology.

General Assembly Per capita funding to PMA
Not all congregations or mid councils pay their full per capita apportionment, however.

Uncollected apportionments are on the rise – increasing from about $1 million in 2016 to an anticipated $1.56 million in 2020.

In 2016, 69 percent of the presbyteries (119 presbyteries) paid the full apportionment, and another 8 percent (13 presbyteries) paid 90 percent of the apportionment. Others paid considerably less – with 4 percent (7 presbyteries) paying 20 percent of the apportionment or less.

And a small number of presbyteries account for the greatest chunk of the uncollected per capita. In 2016, just 9 presbyteries owed half of the outstanding per capita.

There’s also the question of reserves. Without an increase in per capita, OGA officials say the agency won’t be able to meet what’s required.

The presentation also speaks of the historic trends in the General Assembly per capita budget – up and down in recent years, with significant dips in 2014 and 2015.

For more information about per capita, OGA has created this FAQ.

The Outlook will provide more information following the discussion Feb. 7 of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board executive committee.