General Synod lays off staff, trims budget

Published September 23, 2005

General Synod, the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office in Toronto, said Sept. 20 that due to budgetary pressures, six staff members at the Anglican Book Centre have been laid off and each department is cutting its budget by five percent.”As a voluntary organization, we are presented with a budget year by year. We live within those budgets and we do so effectively, but the church’s best guess on budgeting is not always accurate,” said Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the primate, in a brief address to staff. General Synod’s management team met in early September to examine church finances, particularly losses at the Anglican Book Centre, the church’s Toronto-based retail operation. “The future of the book centre was on the line,” said Archbishop Hutchison. Out of the six staff members let go, one worked full-time and the others various part-time hours, for a total of three full-time-equivalent positions, out of a total of 20 staff positions. In addition, the bookstore’s hours have been trimmed. It is now open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday and is closed Saturday and Sunday. Previously, it was open for longer hours during the week and on Saturday. Hours for the telephone order desk were trimmed slightly. It is now open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. In an interview, bookstore manager Dan Benson said several factors have contributed to the store’s difficulties. He also noted that the store has, until recently, been a net contributor to General Synod’s bottom line. “We have sent a total of $1.38 million to General Synod in the five years before 2003,” he said. In 2003, though, the store lost $370,252 and in 2004, it lost $306,892. This year, the bookstore is recovering, he said. “I see us either breaking even or making a small profit in 2005,” said Mr. Benson. In the fall of 2003, the national office scheduled a move to new quarters at 80 Hayden St., one block from the old office at 600 Jarvis St. General Synod financial managers directed the bookstore to liquidate inventory at sale prices, both to bolster cash flow and to reduce the amount of inventory to be moved. Due to construction delays, however, the move did not take place until June, 2004. Many customers had stocked up at sale prices and sales figures did not pick up in 2004, said Mr. Benson. The store also had to spend to restock its inventory. In addition, he said, “we moved from an address where we had been established for 70 years on a main thoroughfare to a back street with less parking.” Some 40 per cent of the bookstore’s sales result from walk-in traffic, he noted. E-commerce and competition from major book retailers such as and Chapters/Indigo do affect the bookstore and the book centre is about to launch a new Web site with online ordering capability, said Mr. Benson. In addition, the book centre has been expanding its distribution business, signing agreements with such religious publishers as Church Publishing in the United States and marketing to other denominations such as the United Church of Canada. The bookstore also recently inaugurated a new program of events at the store such as Tuesday-night workshops on spirituality and work. The book centre is an internationally-prominent retailer of books (including official Anglican Church of Canada publications such as the Book of Alternative Services and the Common Praise hymn book), vestments, cards and church supplies such as chalices and offering envelopes. “For a large portion of the country, we are the face of the national office. We are a supplier to the parish priest with the BAS, preaching resources, study material for groups, certificates for confirmation and baptism, help for new members and seekers. We are also the public face of the Anglican church to the non-Anglican world,” said Mr. Benson In addition to the changes at the bookstore, General Synod treasurer Peter Blachford last week announced that one member of the financial department’s staff — the bookstore’s business manager Teresita De Guzman — would be laid off as part of a department restructuring. Two new staffers — a controller, Donna Locke, and assistant to the treasurer, Benita Honig — have been hired, he said. Last April, as reported in the May issue of the Anglican Journal, General Synod managers announced that expenses needed to be cut by $415,000 in order to achieve a balanced budget for 2005. On Sept. 20, Archbishop Hutchison said the cuts to the bookstore mean “we should be on target for 2006” and no further layoffs are planned “for the foreseeable future.” The budget of the national office has been under pressure due to a shortfall of diocesan contributions, a smaller-than-forecast response to the Anglican Appeal and extra expenses associated with the office move. Diocesan obligations to contribute to a financial settlement over residential schools litigation have also affected national income. At the beginning of 2005, the finance department forecast revenues of $10.57 million and expenditures of $10.72 million.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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