Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Proposed Budget: What COD Dreamed Of

As Homer might say, "Mmm...pie..."
Much like the Grinch could not stop Christmas from coming, somehow or other the Joint Session of both houses for the presentation of the budget came just the same.  Joint sessions always have an element of mishegas, or perhaps of boundary crossing.  Remember no non-deputies can even enter the floor of the House of Deputies (except, apparently, spouses of newly elected Presidents of the House of Deputies, though COD will not call on ruling the election out of order for that transgression) without the adoption of a special order to permit it.  Thus in a Joint Session bishops mingle freely with deputies, the main result of which is that it takes forever to call the session to order because bishops are posing for photos with their deputations, since this is the only time they are permitted to be with them on the floor.

The budget was presented by the co-chairs of the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee -- and it strongly reflects the budget proposal but forward by the Presiding Bishop, which COD blogged about here.   Crusty Old Dean will focus his comments in a couple of areas:

--Process:  PB&F, in its report, more or less admits that the budgetary process did not work this time around.  It calls on Executive Council, Chief Operating Officer and Staff, and PB&F to work on the budgetary process -- recall for this triennium Executive Council took the lead and staff were sidelined -- and calls on it to begin earlier in the triennium.  

--Income:  the 19% asking from dioceses is in place for the 2013-2015 triennium, along with a suggestion that in the restructuring conversations a there be a thorough discussion about coming up with a new paradigm for diocesan asking.  There is also a 5.8% draw from endowment funds.  These two sources make up the bulk of income, with smaller amounts coming from renting 3 1/2 floors of the Church Center in New York (oops -- aren't we're selling that?) and other things like exhibitor's fees at General Convention.

--Expense:  again, this more or less tracks the PB's budget.  Consolidation of some departments like Church Planting and Stewardship into larger block grants.   These block grants are intended to be collaborative, and the model of Episcopal Service Corps is cited -- to "encourage experimentation."

--Lazarus Stuff:  Lifelong Formation is brought back from the dead, and funding for youth and young adult ministries restored.  There is funding for the Episcopal Youth Event, along with $300,000 in grants for campus ministries, among other things.   In addition, the General Board of Examining Chaplains' funding is restored -- along with the charge that Convention act on its 2009 call to re-examine and re-evaluate the GBEC.  Thus essentially GBEC is funded for another triennium, with the expectation that some ideas for rethinking how this is to be done long term are put forward. 

Overall, the budget exemplifies some of what Crusty Old Dean has been saying: rather than restructure by cutting program, see this budget as a bridge between the structures we have and hold conversations in the triennium identifying how we need to modify, adapt, and let go of some things.  The GBEC is a great example of this: rather than simply cutting it and dumping it to the dioceses, it proposes funding GBEC and calling the church to conversation about how best to do this work in the future.

Some other tidbits:

--Proposes cutting one face-to-face meeting of Executive Council per year; currently it meets three times per year, this budget proposes one virtual and two face-to-face meetings.  Since nearly all the CCABs reduced their face-to-face meetings and have made use of videoconferencing and virtual meetings, it makes sense to ask Council to do the same.

--The endowment draw is in essence 5.8% for the triennium.  This is within the expectation of "prudence" as defined by law for non-profits.  The budget also expects return of 8% per year, which seems high; however, the budget notes return since 2003 has average 7.8%, including the crater of 2008.  COD would have liked to have seen the 2000-2012 average rate of return.

--There are significant cuts and significant increases to Communications.  On the one hand, Episcopal News Service ($617,000) and digital communications ($463,000) are cut significantly.  On the other hand, staff costs are up over $700,000, apparently reflecting the filling of positions vacant for the 2010-2012 triennium.  So we're cutting communications but adding staff?

--The budget includes the cutting of 10.75 staff positions.  Unlike 2009 -- where none of the staff knew who was being let go until minutes before the budget was presented -- this has been done in discussion and consultation with the staff.

And lastly:

The PB went a bit rogue at the end of the presentation.   She spoke to those present after the budget presentation was completed, and wondered if we might find ways to gather as bishops, clergy, and lay persons at times other than these formal presentations; if we did so, might we learn to speak, consult, and discuss in ways other than formal parliamentary mode (a paraphrase while COD was sitting on the floor of the Convention hall taking notes).

Crusty Old Dean found himself thinking, "You know, that's exactly what we were trying to do in our Acts 8 meeting earlier in Convention -- get people outside the legislative process to think about the church, not to be an affinity group of some kind, but just have people talk."

Then the PB concluded, saying, when we were in those kind of settings, maybe we could ask a question of each other:  "What is it that you dream for this church?"

This, of course, is exactly the question we asked people at Acts 8:  "I dream of a church..."  Read all about it here

COD is assuming this is one wild coincidence.  After all, COD hasn't spoken to her during this Convention.

My next thought was:  "I knew we should have trademarked that phrase!"

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