Holding steady: Apportionment payout influenced by change in pension billing

By Amy Forbus

The totals are tabulated: In 2014, United Methodist congregations in Arkansas contributed $11,275,741 toward the Conference budget through apportioned giving. This number represents a payout of 88 percent—a reduction of slightly more than one percent from 2013.

Apportionments support ministries beyond the local church, such as camping and retreat centers, campus ministries, staffing, resourcing congregations to pursue the Arkansas Conference trajectory of congregational vitality and more.

This decrease continues a trend that began with the shift to billing clergy pensions directly to local churches.

“While this is not unexpected, it is still a little disappointing,” said Todd Burris, director of administrative services and treasurer for the Arkansas Conference. “The pension and benefit apportioned item has typically been paid at a much higher percentage than other budgeted items, so as we move those funds out of the Conference budget and directly bill them to the local church, the overall payout percentage drops.”

In actuality, apportionment payout is probably holding steady, Burris says, but the change in how the Conference bills clergy pensions results in a decline.

The transition to billing local churches for the pension of the clergy serving there began in 2013, following 2012 Annual Conference approval. Churches paid 25 percent of their clergy’s 2013 pension total through direct billing. Last year, churches paid 50 percent of their pastors’ pensions directly; they will pay 75 percent directly this year, and the full amount will be paid directly by the local church beginning in 2016.

While this change lowers apportionments, some churches see an overall increase in expenses because their pastor’s pension wasn’t fully covered by their apportioned giving under the previous system.

The Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) will review the details of the payout at its next meeting in preparation for building the 2016 Conference budget.

CFA aims for a tithe-based budget, in which 10 percent of a local church’s operating income supports ministry at the district, conference, jurisdictional and general church levels of the denomination, and the local church keeps 90 percent of its offering for ministries of its choosing.

Some churches pay more than is required of them by the apportioned giving formula. The Center for Administrative Services credits this extra mile giving toward the balance of churches that were unable to pay their apportioned giving in full. The following churches made extra mile gifts in 2014:

Central District:
Asbury UMC Little Rock
England UMC
First UMC Greenbrier
Highland Valley UMC Little Rock
Mabelvale UMC
Mount Carmel UMC Benton
Saint Andrew UMC Little Rock
Wesley Chapel UMC Little Rock

Northeast District:
Camp UMC
Cedar Grove UMC Floral
Concord UMC Concord
Dell UMC
Farm Hill UMC Harrisburg
Garner UMC
Keiser UMC
Mammoth Spring UMC
Mars Hill UMC Piggott
Moorefield UMC
Mount Carmel UMC Jonesboro
First UMC Piggott
Rose Bud UMC
Russell UMC
Swifton UMC

Northwest District:
First UMC Bella Vista
Bell’s Chapel UMC Atkins
Bergman UMC
Berryville UMC
Bland Chapel UMC Rogers
Cherry Hill UMC
Everton UMC
Hatfield UMC
Mountain View UMC Alma
Mountain View UMC Mena
Oakley Chapel UMC Rogers
Omaha UMC
Paris UMC

Southeast District:
Almyra UMC
Center Grove UMC Sheridan
Clarendon UMC
Gillett UMC
Good Faith Carr UMC Pine Bluff
Grand Avenue UMC Stuttgart
Lacey UMC
Martin’s Chapel UMC Hermitage
Moore’s Chapel UMC Sheridan
Parkin UMC
Sheridan UMC
Tilton UMC
White Hall UMC
Zion UMC Hamburg

Southwest District:
Bismarck UMC
De Ann UMC
Emerson UMC
Greer’s Chapel UMC Magnolia
Harrell UMC
Haven UMC Hot Springs
First UMC Hope
First UMC Hot Springs
L’eau Fraiz UMC Malvern
Lewisville UMC
First UMC Malvern
Mount Moriah UMC Chidester
First UMC Nashville
Saint Andrew UMC Arkadelphia
Wade’s Chapel UMC Ashdown