Budget decrease up for vote at Annual Conference

Cuts to Camp Aldersgate, Hendrix, Philander Smith recommended

By Amy Forbus

Moving to a tithe-based apportionment formula for local churches will have a pronounced effect on the Arkansas Conference’s budget for 2017. The budget proposed to the Annual Conference by the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) contains a number of significant reductions.

“CFA had to make projections of income available to the Conference based on the tithing formula established last year,” said Todd Burris, director of administrative services for the Arkansas Conference.

Taking into account the lower apportionments generated by the new Arkansas Tithe Initiative formula approved at last year’s Annual Conference, CFA then projected that Arkansas churches collectively will pay 85 percent of that amount, or a total of $8,761,134.00.

“After all of the budget requests were received, more than $450,000 had to be cut in order to balance the budget,” Burris said. He added that the extended cabinet and CFA reviewed several different scenarios, and the extended cabinet decided that youth and young adult ministries, Wesley Foundations and Conference ministry centers (Administrative Services, Mission and Ministry, Technology, Vitality) should take priority.

“None of these budget reductions were easy or without consequence,” Burris said. “However, everyone agreed that the tithe plan is the proper course of action for our Conference in order to provide long-term sustainability to the shared ministry of our church.”

Pending approval at Annual Conference in June, the Conference will implement the following changes:

  • Camp Aldersgate support will decrease by $27,000.
  • Hendrix College support will decrease by $63,000.
  • Philander Smith College support will decrease by $85,000.
  • Conference lay staff will receive a three percent reduction in pension benefits.
  • The Conference receptionist position, currently vacant, will be eliminated.
  • Mission Local Church Compensation support will decrease by $32,000.
  • Conference Board of Global Ministries budget will decrease by $10,000.
  • The Historical Society budget will decrease by $10,000.
  • Various other small reductions and cost savings.

Apportionment payout percentages are running 3.34 percent higher than at this time in 2015, according to Conference statistician Melissa Sanders.

“One factor to take into consideration is that the total budget is lower this year,” she said. Because it is a transitional year between apportionment calculation methods, this year’s apportionments take into account both the old expense calculation method and the new tithe method.

A new element that is taking some adjustment time for local churches is the monthly reporting of tithe amounts.

“We started doing tithe reporting this year to help get churches ready for the complete switch to the tithe next year, but so far we only have 317 out of the 658 churches reporting,” she said, adding that one of the goals of the Center for Administrative Services is to schedule training sessions that will clarify that process for local church treasurers and finance committees.