A Budget We Can All Understand
Bishop Morales is directing some improvements to the budget for our diocese. Some of them have to do with the timetable of the budget. Others have to do with how the budget is developed. A third improvement has to do with how the budget is presented.
Recently some have questioned whether the diocese has a budget at all. The source of this question is the fact that after the budget is presented to Synod in October immediately in January there are significant revisions. It is not unusual for additional revisions to be requested and made as the year progresses. Budgets are always forecasts that project anticipated revenues and expenses for the coming year. Every effort is made to live within the budget, but inevitably some adjustments have to be made. This is common for governments and corporations in the private sector as well. One cause of adjustments in the diocese has been the timing of assessments and appeals of assessments. In the past the issuing of assessments has been later in the year and appeals have not been decided until after the budget has been presented. This year the bishop directed that assessments be issued as soon as all the parochial reports were in. Assessments were issued May 1. Appeals must be submitted by June 1 and decisions on appeals will be heard shortly thereafter; very early in the budget process. So there will be no need for modifications after the budget is approved because of assessment appeals.
Another concern the bishop is addressing has to do with the process. Concern has been expressed that there is not enough input from the clergy and laity into how the diocese allocates its resources. Pursuant to a recent canonical change the bishop has appointed a Strategic Development Committee. This committee is working on a strategy for achieving the goals the bishop laid out of being rooted, missional and compassionate. The diocesan council is being encouraged to provide input on the budget on the front end as to the ministries and initiatives that the diocese should support financially to accomplish the priorities flowing from the Strategic Development Committee. This is a significant change from the council’s past role of approving a budget in September just in time for submission to Synod. If you have ideas on ministries or programs the diocese should support, please provide them to a member of Diocesan Council.
Finally, the bishop has approved an additional way of presenting the budget. In addition to the traditional line item budget, the bishop is directing that a program budget be provided. The program budget will divide expenditures by the ministry or function that they support. So it will be much clearer to everyone what our spending priorities are. The budget will be divided into such things as Youth Ministry, International Outreach, Diocesan Office, Evangelism, Fundraising, Provincial Activities and so on. The Strategic Development Committee and Diocesan Council will be asked to formulate what these ministry categories are.
Taken together, these changes should result in a budget that requires fewer and smaller adjustments. The budget should reflect input from a broader cross section of the clergy and lay members of the diocese. Finally, the program budget presentation should allow for more vibrant discussion of the priorities of the budget since it will be much easier to understand the purposes for which we are expending our funds. At every level of the budget process prayer is critical. Please pray that God would guide everyone involved that we would be a diocese that is rooted, missional and compassionate.
Canon Jim Fosdick