CoGS approves budget with $745,000 shortfall

Published December 1, 2008

The Council of General Synod (CoGS) on Nov. 16 approved, but not without dissent from some members, the 2009 General Synod budget. Although pruned by $1.3 million, the budget still projects a deficit of $745,639, with revenues anticipated at $8.6 million and expenditures at $9.4 million.

CoGS, the church’s governing body between General Synods, also approved a motion recommending to General Synod in 2010 “that there be no deficit budgets for the work of General Synod after the year 2012.”

The budget presented by the financial management and development committee (FMDC) of General Synod came under heavy fire from some members who questioned why they were being asked to approve a proposal that they said was short on details and excluded them from the consultation and decision-making processes.

CoGS received a consolidated income and expense summary that showed cuts to some departments at General Synod, but did not provide details on their implications for programs and staff. The summary also presented budget forecasts for 2010 to 2013 that showed deficits of $500,000 in 2010 and $100,000 in 2011.

“How do we go about approving a budget we have no details of?” asked Canon John Steele, diocese of British Columbia.

Bishop Jane Alexander of the diocese of Edmonton said she was “uncomfortable” being asked to take responsibility for “a different way of budgeting for our church,” adding that her own diocese had once gone bankrupt “because of philanthropy budgeting.” (The projected deficits total $1.4 million from 2009 to 2011, assuming that forecast revenues are met, which include anticipated income generated by the newly constituted philanthropy department.)

Bishop Alexander added: “On the one hand you say you want our input, but we’re told ‘we can’t give you this information; just trust us.’ …This is a huge thing we’re being asked to do. There’s a lack of financial statements for a decision that will tie us into budgeting for the next five years.”

On the recommendation of Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, CoGS voted to go in camera to hear management team give “in broad strokes” where the cuts were going to be made.

Still, some members were not convinced. “I do feel obliged to speak against the motion,” said Canon James Robinson, diocese of Calgary, who noted that in recent years CoGS has received assurances of a balanced budget and new money coming from Letting Down the Nets, a stewardship and gift-planning initiative. “Now, we’re in a position of a very serious accumulated deficit…It’s a rather frightening concept what situation we might be in,” he said. He lamented that CoGS wasn’t given enough time to examine the budget, noting that his synod gives members “a courtesy of a few weeks to digest this kind of information.” He said, “I feel it’s been too rushed…A budget of this magnitude deserves some thoughtful, prayerful consideration.”

Under the approved budget, the financial management and development department sustained the worst cut, at $433,400 – or to $1.57 million in 2009 from $1.99 million in 2008. The communications and information resources department followed next with a reduction of $265,121 – or to $1.02 million in 2009 from $1.29 million in 2008.

There was no discussion about potential staff layoffs, but at the end of the meeting, CoGS included, as part of its summary, that “budget decisions were made, conscious of the impact that the decisions will have on valued staff.”

Archbishop Hiltz said the FMDC and management team had precisely avoided issuing a detailed budget because “when you go into line by line, we’ll be in conversation about people and program.” In response to a written question from a member as to why there was more money allocated for the Anglican Journal than the faith, worship and ministry department, the chair of FMDC, Monica Patten, responded, “We want to be clear that, in fact, programs are not in competition with one another.” She said that FMDC and management team did not do “flat-line cutting,” but considered “what can be reduced without affecting in a very negative way programs, and mission and ministry.”

She said that although FMDC recognized that the deficit was still very high, “if we removed more than that in a single year, we were at great peril that we would go so far and in such depth of cuts that we would undermine the possibility of ministry and mission that we want to do and are called to do.”

Management team has until Nov. 30 to make a final decision about the allocation of resources based on criteria identified by CoGS.

Ms. Patten explained that the 2009 shortfall would be partly bridged by negotiating a cash option on General Synod’s remaining piece of property at 600 Jarvis Street, which is expected to bring in $425,000.

The rest of the deficit will be funded by undesignated legacies.

“The glass is always half full for me,” said Ms. Patten, as she urged CoGS to approve the proposal. “I know this ship is not sinking. But it would be misleading if we don’t say we face difficult challenges. No one is to blame. It’s not about finger-pointing; it’s sharing responsibility and solutions.”

Management Team and FMDC have cited a decline in diocesan giving, a loss in investment income resulting from the current economic downturn, and increased travel costs as major factors for the deficit. Diocesan proportional giving is projected to decrease $173,000 in 2009.


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