On the first morning of its fall meeting, Council of General Synod (CoGS) members unanimously approved a balanced 2015 budget of $11.95 million for General Synod.
The budget, as proposed by the financial management committee and presented by General Synod treasurer Hanna Goschy, projects a surplus of $59,000. It also forecasts “modest surpluses” for 2016 to 2019.
Goschy also presented some encouraging end-of-the-year projections. The budget for 2014 had predicted a surplus of $48,000, but third quarter forecast estimates that the surplus could be $396,000. She explained that one of the reasons for this higher expectation was that proportional giving from dioceses is expected to exceed initial estimates by $149,000 and one diocese expects to give a larger gift than it planned. The budget also included a $100,000 contingency fund.
Goschy’s report also noted that most ministries’ expenses were under the amount planned so far and Anglican Journal revenues were $46,000 above the amount planned with successful appeals, advertising and list revenues.
She cautioned, however, that figures could change before the end of the year. “We need to remember that we are still in mid-November and that both proportional giving and Resources for Mission results are weighted towards the fourth quarter and in particular, the last two months of the year,” she said. ” The picture can change quite a bit before we get to the end of the year.”
Block grants to the Council of the North (CoN) will be held at their 2013 level for 2015. In consideration of the need for General Synod to reduce its expenses, the CoN had voluntarily proposed that the annual budget for General Synod’s grants to the council could decrease by five per cent each year for five years starting in 2012. The financial management committee determined it was possible to defer that reduction for the 2014 budget and again this year for the 2015 budget.
Goschy said she aims to budget “conservatively but realistically.” The budget process for 2014 included a re-examination of statistics going back to 1990, which projected a decline in proportional giving from dioceses at a rate of three per cent annually. Looking at more recent years, she found that proportional giving declines had leveled out. In an interview with the Journal, Goschy explained that in the 1990s “there was a precipitous drop,” but that the situation has changed since then. “What I’m saying is 1992 isn’t relevant to predict 2015 or 2016. It’s too far back. …So what is the appropriate period?”
The recession of 2008 was a defining moment for the current economic climate, she said, and so she went back and looked at the actual contributions diocese by diocese since that year. On that basis, she has projected that proportional giving will be “more or less” flat.
But at the same time, Goschy said, “You can’t take comfort. That’s not going to go on forever… I’m looking at a couple of years. If we were planning for a three per cent decline annually forever, we would have to make huge structural changes now because such a big proportion of our expenses is salaries.”
General Synod prolocutor Harry Huskins moved that CoGS express its deep appreciation and thanks to the dioceses for their generous and ongoing financial support of the ministries of General Synod, and that Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary, convey that thanks in a letter.
When there was time for questions from members of CoGS, Dean Peter Wall of the province of Ontario asked whether there was some qualification that would clarify the figures for the Resources for Mission department, which appeared to show that expenses were $927,000 while revenues were $598,000. “This is going to sound very raw but does that mean we are spending $927,000 to take in $598,000? Or is that grossly overly simplistic?” he asked.
Goschy explained that there is “over $900,000 in Resources for Mission revenues and then there are certain designations from that total revenue that go to different places, so $599,000 goes to the operating statement and is recognized immediately as revenue and then some of that revenue is shared with partners and with dioceses.” For example, she said that about half of revenues from the gift guide go to the Primate’s World Relief Fund, the church’s relief and development arm, and part of the annual Anglican Appeal revenue is shared with dioceses. She added that there are also some departmental expenses that go into supporting the planned giving officers in some dioceses.
Wall also asked what consideration is being given to alternative accommodations for the national offices of General Synod, currently housed in four floors of a building in downtown Toronto. Goschy said that she and the general secretary had met with real estate agents from two firms to get an indication of possible prices if a decision was made to sell. “The next steps are doing some financial analysis to see what the profit might be, what the up side might be on saving expenses of running the place,” she said. “So those are the activities at the moment.”