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The PC(USA), A Corporation’s rosy financial picture has but one thorn

With giving and especially investment income both up, spending is substantially down due to a 25% budget reduction imposed for 2021

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — Ian Hall, who began work in June as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation, had a rosy financial report Friday to share with the A Corp Board in a report covering the first seven months of 2021.

But Hall also offered up a caveat: the 25-percent reduction built into the 2021 budget “is having real effects on the ministry we are doing.”

Among the highlights from Hall’s report for the period Jan. 1 through July 31, compiled with the help of the denomination’s controller, Denise Hampton:

  • Contributions to date are $3.4 million over the budgeted amount, including “several large donations” to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and One Great Hour of Sharing receipts, which exceeded last year’s total. Contributions are about $300,000 under the level of 2020 giving through July 31.
  • Investment return was $42 million over budget, mainly due to unrealized gains on investments, which are not budgeted. Compared to the same period last year, investment return is $70 million greater.
  • On the expense side of the ledger, total expenses are $8.8 million less than budget and $6.4 million below last year’s total during the period. Salaries and benefits are $1.4 million less than budget due to position vacancies and $3.4 million below the prior year’s total to date. Travel was about $687,000 less than planned due to the COVID-19 travel ban, and meeting expenses were about $256,000 under budget for the same reason. Administration expenses were $1.3 million less than planned, and program expenses for the Office of the General Assembly and ministries within the Presbyterian Mission Agency, including World Mission; Theology, Formation & Evangelism; and Communications were $3 million less than planned.

Ian J. Hall began work June 28 as the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation. (Photo courtesy of the United Methodist Church’s Indiana Conference)

“In a nutshell, we are in a healthy position,” Hall told the board. “A lot of work was done to manage expenses.”

Because the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Small Business Administration forgave the PC(USA) the $8.85 million Paycheck Protection Program loan it granted last year early during the pandemic, the board had to vote on a recommendation by the Finance, Operations and Budget Committee on how to allocate the funds. The allocation approved unanimously by the board sends $2 million to capital reserve for the $2.4 million conference center renovation project at denominational headquarters, $3 million to a cash flow reserve fund for the A Corporation, $3.08 million to the PMA and $770,000 to the OGA. The last two figures represent an 80-20 cost allocation agreement between OGA and PMA.

The board debated whether to hold its October meeting in person, online or in hybrid fashion. In the end, the board tabled making a decision on how to hold its next meeting until late in September.

Kathy Lueckert, A Corp president, updated the board on a handful of significant projects.

Conference Center project

Detailed drawings are in process, Lueckert said, adding she’s currently waiting on budget numbers from the general contractor.

Candidates to shepherd the project’s audio-visual renovation have been interviewed. “If audio-visual doesn’t work during the General Assembly, there will be very little grace extended,” Lueckert said. “We have to get this right.”

Work to add a conference center and studio to the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, will start soon. (Contributed photo)

Building Services employees have cleared out space on the One West side of the first floor at the Presbyterian Center, 100 Witherspoon Street in downtown Louisville. At this point, Lueckert has two concerns: the planning and permitting process with local government officials “seems to be taking a little longer than usual,” although “it’s a pretty simple project” with plenty of lead time.

Lueckert is also concerned about supply chain issues. “You never know from week to week what will be available,” she told the board. Once decisions are made on what equipment and furniture will be needed, it will be purchased and stored in order to help meet project deadlines.

As General Assembly dates draw close next year, the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky has agreed to hold a meeting in the Presbyterian Center to test the rooms and equipment “and give us good information about providing hospitality to [General Assembly] commissioners,” Lueckert said, not the least of which is “what coffee brewers to get for the welcome center.”

“It is exciting,” Lueckert said of the planned renovation, “and we are anxious for the project to get underway.”

COVID-19 update

The planned formal opening of the Presbyterian Center has been pushed back to Nov. 1, and the delta variant might well delay that date. “We continue to adapt to the changing environment that COVID presents us,” Lueckert said, adding that on any given workday there are 60-70 employees in the building, with the vast majority continuing to work from home. She’s learned “not to get too attached to a plan, because it’s going to change.”

A cross-agency COVID steering team continues to meet twice a month to evaluate the situation, adjust plans accordingly and communicate with employees, Lueckert said.

She said an anonymous survey of employees completed about two months ago indicated about 90% are completely vaccinated. “I think that’s probably increased,” she said. “We will continue to monitor what other employers are doing, and we very well may mandate vaccinations before folks come back.”

“There are no right answers with COVID,” Lueckert said. “We do the best we can to make the best decisions we can given the information we have.”

The board met for about half an hour in privileged (closed) session to discuss litigation and property matters. Afterward, board members announced they’d taken no action during the closed session.


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