By Woody Woodrick
Given his choice, this would not likely be the time the Rev. Danny Rowland would pick to chair the Mississippi Conference Council on Finance and Administration.
The conference saw a dip in giving in 2008, and the national economy has taken a downturn. However, Rowland said he feels good about the 2010 budget CFA will present to the 2009 session of Annual Conference in June, which features an overall reduction.
“We worked hard at it, but didn’t have a knife looking for cuts,” said Rowland, pastor at Starkville First UMC. “We all pretty much approached it with the idea that we’ve got to be sensitive to the needs of the conference and to the local churches. When we finished, I felt we had truly done the work.”
The proposed funding plan for 2010 is $20,671,993. That’s some $208,258 less than the funding plan for 2009 which totals $20,880,251.
“My thought was that in this economy, we can’t increase the budget and need to hold the budget if we can,” Rowland said. “I thought we needed to either keep it level or lower it; that we just simply couldn’t increase it.”
Rowland said he believes all members of CFA were more involved in setting the budget because of a restructuring of the committee. The council was divided into six sub-committees that examined specific areas of the budget.
“I love the way we’ve reorganized because it gives everybody more input,” he said. “Each subcommittee took its task seriously. “
The subcommittees and their recommendations:
• The 2010 Dollar Level subcommittee chaired by Larry Davis of Long Beach determined the ceiling for all funding of the annual conference in accordance with the 2008 Annual Conference’s call for a 10 percent reduction.
• The Apportionment Formula subcommittee chaired by Red Moffat of Jackson studies the formula to be certain that it is fair to the local churches as a whole. A study to base the formula on receipts of the local church in lieu of disbursements is planned. Before a formula can be changed, it must be presented to the Annual Conference for approval. A 2008 General Conference action now requires review of any apportionment change by the General Conference on Finance and Administration.
• The Rev. Andy Ray of Tupelo chairs the Direct Bill subcommittee, which reviews the progress of direct billing churches for the conference pensions and insurance plans along with the conference Board of Pensions. It also determines the feasibility of moving into the next phases. The Pensions Board and CFA recommended moving forward by allowing the 2009 Annual Conference session to determine what steps to activate Jan. 1, 2010. The apportionments and direct bill amounts will be presented as three options: The current method, beginning Phase 2 or beginning Phases 2 and 3. CFA will recommend that all phases be based on a percentage of the pastor’s base compensation. This is different from the current method of Phase 1 where a premium of $1,630 is billed for every pastor regardless of salary. This will reduce the direct bill of the comprehensive protection plan for the churches paying their pastor less than $54,333.
• The Benevolence sub committee chaired by Tommy Barrett of Grenada reviewed all budget requests for the benevolence work of the conference. The committee recommended a 10 percent reduction as was adopted by the 2008 Annual Conference.
• The Rev. Rod Borders of Madison chairs the Ministerial Support subcommittee. A study of salary levels for district superintendents was presented. Because the salaries were frozen on Jan. 1, pending annual conference action, it was recommended that a 2 percent salary increase be allowed in 2009 or 2010, but not both.
• Ellen Short of Tupelo chaired the Administrative subcommittee. The committee recommended that the salaries of the administrative assistant to the bishop, director of Ministerial Services, director of Connectional Ministries and treasurer-director of Administrative Services will no longer be tied to the district superintendent level, but shall not exceed that level. The Personnel Committee in conjunction with the ministry area to which the employees report, including the bishop, will determine the salary level. The administrative budget was reduced by 17.7 percent.
CFA is scheduled to meet in May to determine whether to amend the 2009 budget or take other actions for good financial stewardship based on the current economic conditions.