The 2015 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference is now a part of history and the financial direction of the annual conference is in the book! The body voted significant changes in the Mission Share /Direct Invoicing Funding Plan.
Beginning January 1, 2016 the conference treasurer has been directed by the annual conference to begin direct invoicing the cost of medical benefits for the active clergy. This will see the 2015 level of $3,547,500 on the current line 7 in the apportioned mission shares decrease to $2,365.000 in 2016, $1,182,500 in 2017 and to -0- in 2018.
The balance of the cost of the Clergy Medical Insurance Plan will be direct invoiced to the local churches that are appointed a pastor eligible to be on the Conference Group plan. Eligibility is based on the Affordable Care Act criteria of providing insurance currently to a person serving ¾ time. The Board of Medical Benefits recommended and the Annual Conference affirmed that to be a clergy eligible for health insurance coverage, a total compensation package of 75% of the minimum salary for a full-time local pastor must be earned.
The base on which the Direct Invoice will be the same as currently used for the Pension Plan Direct Invoice. The 2016 rate will be 11.5% phased in over a three (3) year period. If the rate remains constant as projected, then the billing will be 3.83% in 2016, 7.67% in 2017, and 11.5% in 2018.
David Stotts, conference treasurer says he is looking into having one invoice for both Pension and Health Benefits. This will allow for the church to write one check and mail it to the Direct Bill Invoice. This will also save the annual conference time and reduce costs by having only one lock box and one accounts receivable program to maintain. He said that an announcement would be made in the fall as to how this invoicing will work beginning January 1, 2016.
The Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) Chair Reverend Dr. Giles Lindley reviewed with the annual conference the 2016 Mission Share Budget as recommended by the CFA. With the direct invoicing in place, the promise of a level budget from 2015 to 2016 was maintained. The budget to apportion to Mission Shares was reduced for the direct invoice amount and it was set at $14,417,500.
Conference Treasurer David Stotts will prepare the apportioned amount of Mission Shares for each church in accordance with the formula approved in CFA Report # 1 and distribute those amounts in August 2015 along with the District Mission Shares.
Other action on the budget saw the approval of the request for withdrawal by The Methodist Children's Home and the Baddour Center from the apportioned mission shares in favor of a Special Sunday Offering. This is the same model the Methodist Senior Services has been following for many years now. This request came to the CFA in January and was approved to be carried forward to the Annual Conference for action. Both entities were thankful for the years that they had been nurtured in the Mission Shares and they believed that it was now time for them to move out making room for other ministries.
David Stotts presented the Conference Treasurer's report and challenged the churches to step up their generosity to mission and ministry work in 2015. After finishing in 2015 with a two year decline in percentage pay out, he stated that the trend that is measured in May of each year shows that the 2015 giving systemically to the mission shares is improving. This year 437 churches achieved that goal. With continued generosity, there is no reason that we could not increase our connectional giving by 4 % and end the year at 85% strong.
The consent agenda saw the approval of the Board of Medical Benefits Report recommending no increase in the rates for the active plan. The Board of Pension report approved a rate increase for the pre 82 retirees from $512 per service year to $523 per service year effective January 1, 2016.
The Administry Executive Team of the conference will continue to provide education events. The 3 "L" Academy for the clergy around Stewardship and the pension program will be held August 17-18, 2015, at the Hilton on County Line Road in Jackson. The Conference Board of Pension is offering scholarships to the under 40 clergy to attend the revITup event in Chicago in October. This event is sponsored by the General Board of Pension. Administry will be taught in the Tupelo, Hattiesburg and Greenwood districts this fall. As usual, resources are available from the conference treasurer on the distribution and use of the mission shares.