Connectional Table reviews programming budget requests

March 19, 2019

Funding requests from the New England Conference’s committees, boards, and agencies were the topic when the Connectional Table met on March 13, 2019.
The Connectional Table is responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on requests for funding under the programming budget (Fund 2). The Connectional Table’s recommendations are then passed to the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA), which develops the proposed budget for the Conference.

Fifteen groups made 2020 budget requests totaling $301,245. Not all of Fund 2 is under the Connectional Table’s purview; in 2019, the portion for which the Connectional Table is responsible totaled $270,775.
For 2020, the Connectional Table recommended a total of $250,245 in spending; $51,000 less than what groups requested and $20,530 less than the amount budgeted in 2019.
As has been their practice in the past, the Connectional Table budgeted $500 each for groups that did not submit requests to allow these groups to begin or further develop. There were five groups that did not seek 2020 funding.
Co-Chair Joan Klein said the reduction in spending for 2020 reflects the Connectional Table’s holding groups accountable when making requests, and ensuring they recognize that they must be specific and clear about their plans, goals, and needs.

The Connectional Table agreed to propose placing $10,265 – half of the $20,530 proposed reduction in spending – into its fund to support emerging ministries and unanticipated programming funding requests. As with its Fund 2 recommendations, this will go to CFA for consideration as part of the 2020 NEAC budget. 
This allows there to be more money in the budget for people with creative initiatives to approach program heads or the Connectional Table with ideas and seek support, said Rev. Dan Randall. “I think it opens the door for new and creative ministries.”

Connectional Table members addressed some other budget issues not directly related to spending as well.
Many, though not all, boards’ and committees’ budgets are pro-rated based on the actual amount received in Mission Shares. In 2018, Mission Share receipts for Fund 2 were about 61 percent of what was budgeted, so groups were allowed to spend 61 percent of the funds they had been allocated in the budget.
The Connectional Table agreed to move every committee toward the goal of aligning their spending with actual Mission Share receipts.
The Parish Consultants and the Camping and Retreat Ministries Reserve Fund have been removed from the Connectional Table's review process. The Connectional Table reasoned that these are not programming matters.

The coordinator for the Parish Consultants is a clergy appointment, therefore a personnel matter. The CRM Reserve Fund was created by the Council on Finance and Administration as an incentive for camps to build up their reserves. Sites that finish the year without a deficit and place funds in reserve are offered a dollar for dollar matching grant from this fund. Since 2015, all NEAC sites have ended the year without a deficit.
Some funding was also moved out of the Board of Laity’s budget request. Tom Leach is the president of the Conference United Methodist Men, and, over the past year or so, has been making a push to revitalize men’s ministry in New England. As he was new to the budgeting process, he asked the Board of Laity to include funding for UMM in its request. At this meeting, the Connectional Table approved the $1,000 UMM requested and moved it to its own budget line.
Using funds from the Connectional Table’s budget to support emerging ministries, members also approved a retroactive $1,000 for 2019 to support work Leach has already been doing, but which had not begun until after the 2019 budget requests were completed.
The Connectional Table’s role is focused on determining program investment and assessing how well ministries are meeting the mission and vision of the Conference as laid out in the Strategic Plan. Over the last couple of years, members have been developing a “scorecard” system for evaluating budget requests.
To further develop the assessment process, members agreed to offer specific feedback to groups that submitted budget requests to help them understand the Connectional Table’s decisions and to help these groups hone and refine their requests to make them more effective.
Leadership/Nominations, youth and young adult scholarships

Members also addressed two additional matters unrelated to budgeting.

Bonnie Marden, chair of the Conference Committee on Leadership/Nominations, made a request to the Connectional Table to “consider structural options” for the Committee on Ethnic Local Church Concerns. Marden explained it has been difficult to find members for this committee.
The Book of Discipline (¶ 632) requires that the work of this committee be handled by Annual Conferences, but does not require a committee per se.
The Connectional Table agreed to care for the work of the Committee on Ethnic Local Church Concerns. Rev. Randall volunteered to develop a plan for how the Connectional Table will address this for the members to review.  
Also discussed was how to disburse funds for youth and young adult scholarships that were raised through the Bishop LaTrelle Easterling farewell offering and by the annual sale of jewelry organized by Prema Devadhar and Lori McKinley. It was decided that the Connectional Table Co-Chairs and the Conference Lay Leader will review the criteria and establish a process for awarding grants of $250 each from these funds.
The Connectional Table meets three to four times each year, and hosts an annual retreat for the leaders of boards and committees each fall.