The Presbyterian Center’s new conference facility came in on time and slightly under its (revised) budget

Supply chain issues and additional technology investments drove the final price tag to nearly $3.8 million, A Corp Board learns

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The production studio in the new conference center was a beehive of activity even before this summer’s General Assembly. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — With nearly all the bills in and paid for, the Conference Center project at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky came in at about $130,000 under the revised budget of about $3.88 million, A Corp President Kathy Lueckert reported to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), A Corporation Board of Directors Friday.

The 225th General Assembly (2022) made use of the state-of-the-art technology and meeting and hospitality spaces afforded by the new Conference Center, and use has continued mostly by PC(USA) staff and committees into the fall.

The project’s original budget, slightly under $2.4 million, proved inadequate in the face of pandemic-caused supply chain issues present in late 2021 and into 2022, Lueckert explained in a report to the board. Technology improvements to the Conference Center’s production studio and its meeting rooms also drove up the cost indicated by the original budget by nearly $750,000.

Funding sources included $2 million in loan forgiveness from the Paycheck Protection Program and a $1 million contribution from Presbyterian Mission Agency reserves. Other funding sources included per capita and the A Corp’s capital reserve.

Nearly 40% of the project was completed by diverse suppliers, including the design firm, the furniture vendor and the technology vendor. The general contractor had 25% diverse suppliers as subcontractors.

“Despite Covid, many supply-chain issues and government bureaucracy delays, the project was substantially complete by the deadline of the 225th General Assembly,” Lueckert wrote in her report.

Ian Hall, the A Corp’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, took the board through financial statements for the year ending Sept. 30 and compared those figures to the ones from the same period in 2021.

Contributions are almost $14 million over budget and nearly $9 million over the previous year, primarily due to increased giving to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, especially to aid the Ukrainian people through PDA’s many partners, as well as catastrophic tornadoes and flooding.

But investment return was almost $79 million under budget and nearly $122 million lower than last year’s. Investments incurred unrealized gains in 2021 and unrealized losses this year, Hall pointed out.

Expenses were more than $12 million less than budget and $4.5 million less than last year’s expense. Due to vacancies, salary expense was $2 million less than budget. “What ministry,” Hall wondered, as he has before, “are we not doing?”

Program expense was $5.4 million less than planned due to decreased program expenses in Compassion, Peace & Justice and World Mission ministries and the cancellation of the Youth Triennium. Compared to the previous year, expenses are $1.4 million higher due to spending by the Office of the General Assembly on this summer’s Assembly.

Compared to budget, grant expenses are $2 million lower than budget due to fewer grants in student financial aid and grant budgets for CPJ and World Mission.

For just the Administrative Services Group, expenses were under budget by about $700,000. Hall attributed that mainly to lower than budgeted costs for Building Services, depreciation and Information Technology. Legal Services was over budget by 21% because of legal fees paid and Global Language Services was 27% over budget because of consultant fees.

The board also approved a handful of motions made by its three committees. The Finance, Operations and Budget Committee recommended approving a tithe of $1.9 million from PMA unrestricted undesignated reserves held at the Presbyterian Foundation be directed to the New Covenant Trust Company and invested in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund. The fund meets all General Assembly screening requirements for investments.

As recommended by its Audit, Legal and Risk Management Committee, the board approved an anti-distracted driving policy, developed in collaboration with the Committee on the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.

Lueckert also updated the board on searches underway for the new director of Mission Engagement & Support and Information Technology. The nearly 50 applicants for the MES position include “a good response from candidates of color,” Lueckert said, adding that the finalists should be selected by early February.

“We haven’t had as much luck” with the IT position, Lueckert said. “That’s not unique to us. It’s a challenge across the IT industry for whatever reason. We hope to get more candidates over Christmas.”

As it did Thursday, the board went into closed session about halfway through its meeting on Friday. Afterward, the board announced three actions:

  • In addition to 3% raises budgeted for 2023,  PC(USA) employees who are benefits eligible will receive a 3% payout on their final payday of 2022 if their base salary is $50,000 or less, and 2% if it’s between $50,001 and $99,999.
  • The board approved a new A Corporation Employee Handbook to be effective on Jan. 1, 2023.
  • It also received the president’s review.

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