Budget management earns high marks
By Allen Palmeri
JEFFERSON CITY—Years of unrealistic budget goals that have never been met have conditioned Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) leaders to under-spend their allotments and to rely on the somewhat artificial means of using savings generated by unfilled staff positions as a way to remain in the black.
This year’s estimate by MBC Controller Jay Hughes is a $15.8 million collection—well short of the $16.5 million budget. MBC Interim Executive Director David Tolliver, who has been at the helm for 20 months, is well aware of this pattern and aims to change it, but in 2009 he does see it continuing as the MBC likely will not meet its $16.3 million budget.
Tolliver has consistently stated that one of these years he would like to have a true budget, not a dreamy one, particularly as a national economic recession starts to hit home.
“We’re probably going to face some economic challenges over the next two or three years, but we’re not going to mark time, and we’re certainly not going to retreat,” Tolliver said to MBC Executive Board members Dec. 9.
“We’re going to be very careful stewards of the resources that you give to us, but we’re not going to retreat. We will never spend more than what we bring in. I’ll make that absolute commitment to you now.”
One of Tolliver’s approaches has been to combine certain staff positions and to leave others unfilled. One example of combining is Spencer Hutson filling both the biblical stewardship and Cooperative Program jobs.
“I don’t see that changing,” Tolliver said.
An example of savings generated by unfilled positions is on the associate executive director level, with two of the three spots being vacant right now and Tolliver’s current salary as interim being slotted into the associate category. “In all likelihood” one of these three spots will not be staffed in 2009, Tolliver said.
“We’ve had some positions where people have resigned, and we’re not replacing those people,” Tolliver said. “Jerry Field in church planting, Don Hinkle in The Pathway, and some others have graciously said, ‘We can kind of pick up the slack.’”
Another source of savings, Tolliver said, is in the pool of ministry assistants, where a full staff of 24 will not be realized.
“Currently, there are 18,” he said. “There will likely be 20 maximum.”
Tolliver concluded his remarks by reminding board members that they will need to redo the entire job inventory next year due to these and other economic realities.
The board approved various amendments to the job inventory to reflect recent hires and increased the potential to financially reward promoted employees from 15 to 25 percent above their current base salary. They also raised the maximum wage for pay grade level 2 approximately 7 percent to $38,650.
Tolliver’s manner of addressing the overall budget needs and employee salary adjustments was favorably received by board members. For example, Jeff Anderson, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Hannibal, who chairs the Support Services group that is over finances, personnel and property, offered this comment in their Dec. 8 committee meeting.
“We’re doing a fantastic job with limited resources,” he said.
Board members did express their concerns about funding the five breakaway agencies, which are currently in litigation, should they be returned to the MBC. Those agencies are: Windermere Baptist Conference Center; the Baptist Home; Missouri Baptist College; the Missouri Baptist Foundation; and Word & Way. Board members voted to have MBC staff develop a plan by the April 2009 board meeting to reinstate funding to these agencies for the 2010 budget.
Convention legal expenses will now be detailed by the Audit/Finance Work Group of the Executive Board on a regular basis, with a report to the full board at every quarterly board meeting. In addition, the name of the Legal Task Force has been changed to the Agency Restoration Group.
The church health initiative launched by Tolliver in September 2007 continues to work its way into the various staff departments. A Church Health Task Force continues to meet and is working toward making resources available to interested Missouri Baptist churches.
“We’re in the process of developing an evaluation tool, an assessment tool that you’ll be able to use in churches,” said Mike Cooper, director of the MBC’s Sunday School / Discipleship team. “It’s a very simple one-page (tool) that kind of whets people’s appetites.”
New MBC President Bruce McCoy continues to make appointments, with his latest coming on the Committee on Executive Board Committees. Harvey Parker, laity, First Baptist Church, St. Joseph, was appointed to fill a vacancy for a term expiring in 2009. He replaces Ed Hamilton, minister, Ozark Baptist Church, Houston. McCoy will appoint three new committee members with terms expiring in 2010 and announce them at the July board meeting.
Four of the six members of the MBC Peace Committee were in attendance at the Executive Board meeting. The board voted that it is expecting an interim or final report from the committeein April.
In other business, board members voted to:
• Receive an amended version of their bylaws concerning the executive director evaluation procedure, which may now be finally approved in April;
• Take no action relating to the posting of agendas, minutes and recording Executive Board meetings because of it not being feasible;
• Approve a contribution of $43,987.62 for the Mission Dignity program in 2008, to be used for people living in Missouri;
• Approve that the 2008 budget under-spend, or net budget overages, be placed in the New Building Fund (a similar decision last year resulted in about $89,000 being placed into that fund);
• Secure the process of accepting a bid of $26,027 for galvanized guttering on the Baptist Student Union (BSU) of Rolla, with approximately $9,500 coming from the BSU Capital Improvements budget and about $16,500 coming from reserves; and
• Initiate work with three groups who are interested in purchasing MBC property in Macon that could, based on appraisals, be worth anywhere from $110,000-$148,000.