Proposed 2019 Conference budget is presented

CFA Chair Ralph Howe and Treasurer Bill Burnside

June 14, 2018

Conference Council on Finance and Administration President Rev. Ralph Howe led off the discussion of the proposed 2019 budget saying he wanted to “address the issue of change.”
“As we come under pressure, we tend to rely more and more heavily upon old standbys, and hence, we repeat the very patterns that got us into the current situations we unhappily face,” he said.
But Jesus, Rev. Howe said, “bids us die to the old, in order to be freshly regenerated.”
“New ways of being the living church of Jesus Christ are emerging,” Rev. Howe said, and “the task of the CFA is to keep the funds flowing to these, while encouraging us to trim back of older ways that have lost their spiritual energy and missional power.”
This transition cannot be made, however, if local churches “do not embrace your parts in this transformation and renewal,” Rev. Howe said, “both in faithful risk taking for the Gospel and in fully meeting connectional Mission Shares.”
“Your faithful remittances are a significant part of how we die to the old and seek regeneration together,” he said.
Rev. Howe then turned the presentation over to Conference Treasurer Bill Burnside, who discussed the budget details.
The 2019 budget represents a slight decrease from 2018. The Mission Share Budget (the amount to be apportioned as Mission Shares) is $8,147,561, that is a decrease of 0.1 percent, and the amount that groups are authorized to spend, the Mission Share Spending Budget, decreased by 0.2 percent to $6,897,277. (Find the 2019 budget here).
In his presentation, Burnside highlighted some of the individual items that represented significant increases or decreases.  
One of the areas that increases is personnel expenses, primarily, Burnside said, because of  higher health insurance costs and salary increases – the budget includes a 1.5 percent salary increase for 2019. Previous years’ increases were 2.1 percent and 1.7 percent. There is also funding for a 1 percent increase given for merit or market rate raises.
Over the past three years, he said, the amount of the Conference’s total health insurance claims has exceeded claims funding. This is reflected in the 2019 budget, as the blended rate is going up from $17,328 to $18,996.
“The Conference Board of Pensions is both aware and concerned about the effects of the increasing costs of healthcare on our pastors and our churches,” Burnside said, and is offering a new health insurance option in an effort to curb costs.
As of 2019, participants can opt for a high deductible health plan that will “result in lower premiums for participants and allow greater flexibility in making decisions regarding the type and level of their care.” This plan will be offered in addition to the current PPO option.
One of the significant decreases in the 2019 budget is to the Conference’s World Service Apportionments to the general church, which will
decrease by 5 percent next year. (More specifics can be found below).

The budget discussion also included the presentation of a plaque commemorating the New England Conference paying 100 percent of our
General Church apportionments. 
Other decreases in the new budget are:
  • Mission u is looking to continue lowering their expenses and are looking to seek less costly location for its event.
  • Although Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships is continuing its work, requests from the various Councils of Churches have decreased.
  • The Commission on the Status and Role of Women is rebuilding, and its budget is set at the general amount for most committees.
  • The Board of Laity’s budget is lower; the 2018 budget included funds for hosting the Jurisdictional Board of Laity meeting here in New England in October.
  • The costs for Episcopal Residence for the Assistant to the Bishop have gone down.
  • The Board of Ordained Ministries requested a reduced amount in operating expenses largely due to lower costs for meetings and for Maternity/Paternity Leave.
  • The Conference Center’s budget is slightly reduced due to lower costs in the new space at 411 Merrimack St., Methuen, MA.
Other increases include:
  • There is a slight increase for Spiritual Life programming, which includes programs such as “Tending the Fire” and the annual Clergy Retreat.
  • Justice for our Neighbors is a United Methodist immigration ministry providing legal assistance, education and advocacy. The Connectional Table has affirmed that there is an increased need for these services, and approved a 9 percent budget increase.
  • The Committee on Ethnic Local Church Concerns is in the re-forming stage this year, and has been given a budget of $1,000.
  • The Asian Commission, which is working on empowering Asian ministries and retreats for youth, clergy and laity, budget increased.
  • The Commission on Religion and Race has requested additional money for a pilot program and to hold meetings throughout the conference to begin to equip clergy and congregations to have conversations about race and reconciliation. 
  • District housing costs have increased primarily due to higher utility costs.
  • Again this year, there is an increase for legal expenses.
“On behalf of the Conference, I thank you for your continued service to your congregation and the Conference, and pray that God blesses you in your service to others,” Burnside said.
The Annual Conference is scheduled to vote on the 2019 proposed budget during the Saturday morning plenary.