CoGS ponders cuts to programs

By on December 1, 2002

Mississauga, Ont.

Council of General Synod passed a hold-the-line budget for 2003 but acknowledged that there might have to be decisions about program cuts early next year if a settlement is reached with the federal government over residential schools.

For the first time ever, members of CoGS discussed the budget in closed session, emerging to say only that they had passed it with some dissenting votes. CoGS also met privately to discuss residential schools negotiations and their budgetary implications.

The 2003 budget calls for revenues and expenditures each of $10.6 million, unchanged from 2002?s outlook. It includes a special $150,000 provision to help finance a settlement fund to cover the Anglican church?s share of residential school claims, said treasurer Jim Cullen.

The budget process acknowledges the possibility that dioceses might dip into their proportional giving to meet their contributions to a settlement fund. About 85 per cent of the General Synod budget comes from diocesan revenue.

According to budget proposals, financial management and development committee recommended that a secured line of credit be set up to ensure that in initial years of the settlement fund?s operation, money is available to meet the terms of the agreement.

?Failures to have fund available at the stipulated time could result in a default of the agreement,? the document says.

Previous plans to sell the Anglican Book Centre have been abandoned, Mr. Cullen said. ?One of the options was to sell ABC if we couldn?t reach an agreement (with government) but the need to sell it is not there. It?s a major revenue generator for General Synod.? ABC is expecting revenue of $346,000 for 2002, up from an earlier forecast of $204,000.

Betty Livingston, the FMD committee member who introduced the budget, said, ?FMD has some concerns that dioceses will need to reduce their contributions. We will ask CoGs for advice on priorities, what program cuts you would make, and suggestions.?

Anticipating a budget revision before February 2003 following an agreement with the government, CoGs later passed a motion that the officers of General Synod appoint one member of CoGs from each of the four ecclesiastical provinces to meet with the management team and a member of the finance committee, chaired by the prolocutor, to make necessary decisions before the next CoGs meetings in May 2003.

Mr. Cullen said the 2003 budget includes salary increases to General Synod staff that is less than the cost of inflation, or 2.5 per cent of current salaries and benefits.

As well, the budget includes provisions for an anticipated move from 600 Jarvis Street to a new building, under construction.

While the actual cost of claims to be paid to victims of residential schools is uncertain, the budget shows a $1.8 million amount set aside to ?reflect actual costs.? In an interview, Mr. Cullen said ?at a certain point the government did not ask us to pay anything while we were in negotiations with them and took care of our portion of pay outs to claimants for us. That?s what that money is for.?

Major expenses, he noted, are the cost of Partnerships and Council of the North, which make up over 51 per cent of the budget.

Bishop Don Harvey of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, a member of Council of the North, said an increase to clergy stipends of $1,500 phased in over a three-year period, would come from council members and not from General Synod as originally planned. ?We decided to take care of it ourselves because of the strains on General Synod finances,? he said.

Mr. Cullen added that 2002 revenues for the Anglican Appeal are 25 per cent better than originally anticipated. He added that if Anglicans could be persuaded to donate all their charitable gifts to the church for one year ?we?d be home-free.?

Mr. Cullen added that there was reduction in investment income due to an erosion of the General Synod asset base. ?This is very real very real,? he said. ?In the last nine months I?ve taken $1million out of consolidated funds to meet our commitments.? He added that this has an impact on investment income for next year.

A continuous theme running through the CoGs meetings was a perception of confusion among Anglican donors about why they should give to a residential schools settlement fund.

?We have to sell the idea that to pay for residential school damages is worthwhile and not a negative thing. It could be a hard sell,? Mr. Cullen told CoGs.

Rob Dixon and Rob Waller from the finance committee and general secretary Jim Boyles presented a document called The Task at Hand: Recognized the Turning Point, Preparing the Opportunity.

Out of consultation, a document entitled the Marigold Report and other feedback, finance committe urged that fundraising move forward now.

CoGs agreed to a gathering of diocesan representatives next March to consider immediate funding needs for residential schools and restoration, stewardship development in the dioceses, congregational development and a planned giving initiative. A staff position to manage and coordinate the meetings was also recommended.

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