CFA prepares $20.6M budget for 2009


Special to the Advocate

The Mississippi Conference Council on Finance and Administration plans to present a financial plan for 2009  that calls for no increase in funding from the churches as a whole.

The plan will be presented first at budget roundtables around the conference before a final proposal goes to the 2008 Annual Conference, set for June 8-10 at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.

The proposed amount for apportionment is $19,764,572 and the amount proposed for direct billing is $900,000, mirroring the current budget of $20,664,572. Both proposed amounts are based on estimates of General and Jurisdictional line items, which will not be determined until the respective conferences meet later this year.

CFA intends to begin a phase-down of current apportioned amounts for agencies and institutions that have their own boards of directors to 20 percent of the current funding. The phase-down will happen gradually over several years, a gentler process than previously approved.

In addition, CFA's proposal for 2009 calls for launching a four-phase move toward direct billing of local churches for pensions and insurance of appointed clergy.

Meeting Feb. 29, the council faced rising budget requests while remembering 2007 saw a 3.21 percent decline in giving to the apportioned ministry. The 2007 Annual Conference called for CFA to begin to look at ways to find alternate funding other than apportioned dollars for at least 20 percent of the budget. Those directions were the basis of the new CFA recommendations.

The 2009 budget also addresses accountability by assigning the full cost of appointed clergy to the respective line items for district superintendents, campus ministers and conference staff. 

Additionally, internal controls over new ministry start-ups are being recommended.

CFA also approved a special offering beginning in 2008 for emergency preparedness and initial response of the conference United Methodist Committee on Relief. The first emergency preparedness offering will be July 27.

When the recent tornadoes ripped through north and central Mississippi, the conference became aware that its initial response funds for new disasters have been depleted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. UMCOR responded within hours of the tornadoes by providing $10,000 grants after each of the tornadoes and various churches sent in offerings. Even with that funding, the conference needs resources available to begin work as soon as a need arises. 

In order to hear views on the proposed actions, CFA will host roundtable discussions throughout the conference during March. This will allow all interested United Methodists -- lay and clergy -- the opportunity to understand the proposed budget and financial reports that will be presented to the 2008 Annual Conference.

At the gatherings, conversation will follow a presentation of the proposed budget and reports. CFA members will record the comments for a follow-up meeting of the council to complete preparation of the budget and reports for Annual Conference.

In an effort to help each pastor and congregation better understand where their apportioned dollars go, CFA has authorized creation of an educational "toolkit." A committee was appointed to roll out this information. The toolkits will be available by Annual Conference. 

Budget Roundtables

The Council on Finance and Administration has scheduled seven meetings to receive feedback on the proposed 2009 Mississippi Conference budget. All are invited to attend.

March 8 -- New Albany and Tupelo districts; 10 a.m., Tupelo St. Luke UMC

March 9 -- Greenwood and Senatobia districts; 3 p.m., Grenada First UMC

March 17 -- Seashore District; 7 p.m., Long Beach First UMC

March 24 -- Hattiesburg District; 7 p.m., Parkway Heights UMC

March 25 -- Starkville and Meridian districts; 7 p.m., Louisville First UMC

March 27 -- Brookhaven District; 7 p.m., McComb Centenary UMC

March 30 -- East Jackson and West Jackson districts; 3 p.m. Jackson Anderson UMC