September 15, 2007, a new day in the life of the Diocese of Olympia when we welcomed Bishop Greg Rickel as our new Diocesan. We have come a long way in our financial journey with Bishop Greg’s leadership. In 2007 our assessment rate was at 18%; in 2012 we were able to lower it to 17.5%; 2016 we lowered it to 16%; then 15% the following year and in 2018 to 14.5.
The budget in 2006 was about $6million in revenue and expenses, vs the current 2019 budget of $4,885.997. The staff was twice the size of what it is currently. In 2008 our assessment shortfall was $203,489 and by 2014 it was $121,125 and down further in 2014 to approximately $60,000 with only 7 congregations experiencing problems making their assessment payments. The Budget and Finance Committee began to work directly with congregations who had large assessment shortfalls to find a remedy or assist with the actual reductions of amounts due.
A change in the Canons was made in 2011 to reflect a congregation in good standing, and have seat, voice and vote at Convention, if all their reports were in and their assessments were current, or they had a plan on file with the Diocese indicating how to bring their assessment current. In 2019 we have only two congregations experiencing difficulty and one feels they will be back on track by the end of 2019.
Since 2013 Canon a change for payment of assessments to “real time” the collection of assessment payments has strongly improved. We would like to have those payments made by the 15th of each month but with so many congregations relying on volunteers it is difficult to achieve that goal.
The Bishop established a Joint Finance Panel with representatives from each governing body It is a subcommittee of all the governing bodies including diocesan staff and Bishop’s Office with the presence of the Canon to the Ordinary and Canon for Governance, Acting Canon for Finance, the Treasurer (Chair) and the Chair of Budget and Finance. Each governing body member provides coordination and reporting to each governing body. It is expected that members of the Panel understand the principles held by each governing body, so that what is asked of congregations matches, is consistent and clarifies rather than confuses. The Joint Finance Panel makes recommendations; it cannot approve or disapprove any request. In order to further assist congregations in dealing with financial matters a Guide to Congregational Financial Transactions in the Diocese of Olympia, Inc had a major 2018 revision to the formerly known Congregational Authority to Act, providing clear directions to parishes and missions.
This Joint Finance Panel is also the Audit Committee, which receives the annual audits and reports back to the Board of Directors and Diocesan Council and makes recommendations to remedy issues that may be identified by the auditors. As changes are made in the world of GAAP accounting we are guided by our auditors in their recommendations in their annual audit reports. In 2018 a first time Cybersecurity Risk Assessment was undertaken with recommendations to protect the Diocesan electronic files.
The Board of Directors has been proactive in working with missions and encouraging parishes to identify deferred maintenance in the properties, which are owned by the Diocese. And they have been able to provide financial capital support to those missions who must meet emergency repairs/replacement but don’t have the funds to do so. Funds for this comes to the Board typically in the form of cash dividends from 4 DIF funds identified for capital improvements. There are existing real estate funds to augment the income. When it was determined that a director of finance really didn’t have the time to manage the property actually owned by the Diocese a property manager was hired. We now have a handle on what we own, what should be sold, what property should be developed and what missions need assistance with their buildings and grounds. Safety is the primary goal. After a feasibility study done by the Board of Directors. A major goal was reached in 2019 with the rezoning of property in Ballard. It is anticipated St. Luke’s, Ballard will come to the Board in the not too distant future with recommendations for the development of the large piece of property in Ballard, which as a result of property value increases, demand for property in that area and the rezoning the property is likely to be worth $475 per square feet or a total value of $26,000,000.
Chaplains on the Harbor came about from a vision by Sarah Monroe after a year of discernment and the fact the Diocese had an empty building in Westport. The Board took a new approach to reaching out by providing the facility and initial capital funding to make this vision come to the point it is today. It has come a long way and still opening up new visions.
A cash management procedure was established in mid-2016 wherein cash for the Building Loan Fund and Operating Fund was sitting in a regular bank account earning less than half a percent in interest, was transferred to a Building Loan Fund account in the Diocesan Investment Fund. At the end of 2018 that money had earned a total of $271,237.
The Diocesan Investment Fund has continued to grow with congregations making the decision to transfer endowment funds from other funds into the DIF due to the returns received and the fact that no management fee is charged by the Investment Committee. This Fund is still subject to the whims of the stock markets, but by being somewhat conservative and not reacting to the market gyrations we continue to see good earnings for depositors, including the Diocese.
The Board of Directors has been actively engaged in gathering information on whether to recommend to the Investment Committee to divest of fossil fuel stocks. At one point the Board decided not to recommend divestment, however, another resolution at Convention made it necessary to continue our work with a report to be made at the 2019 Convention.
We were able to replace the roof on Diocesan House and to other repairs, using earnings revenue from the Hodges Fund in the DIF and did not have to dip Into the principle of that fund.
A major review of our insurance for the entire Diocese was done approximately 5 years ago with the decision to engage Church Insurance Group as our insurance carrier. A review is now done every year with CIG and at the end of 2018 received a report on under and over insured properties.
A major review of the Grants to Congregations was taken on several years ago resulting in better use of assessment funds when awarding grants. In the years shortly after the arrival of the Bishop grants were “just” awarded and additional grants were made to congregations because they always got grant money. The Congregational Grants Committee has a good process for reviewing grant applications and actually provides an interview process before recommending to Diocesan Council if monies should be awarded.
After a somewhat rocky transition from the Canon for Finance of 35 years we have a part time acting Canon for Finance who brings us excellent experience in corporate accounting. This allowed us to bring in a much needed staff accountant which will enable the current staff to reduce the many hours of overtime they have been spending for a long period of time. To assist with the myriad of property matters we also have a part time property manager on staff.
Building a budget of our size can be an arduous task. Budget and Finance used to begin working on the budget in January or February, but with the Acting Canon for Finance’s expertise in corporate financing we now begin in late April or early May. As a corporation we provide the budget for the Diocesan Council to recommend it to the Convention in the fall. In years past it wasn’t unusual for line items in the budget to be debated on the floor at Convention and either deleted or changed. As a result we have been very purposeful in the presentation of the budget in the past several years by providing a narrative budget around the various areas of program and governance covered by the budget and keeping in mind our previous and current Diocesan Vision Statement. The proposed budget is then presented at regional gatherings in the fall and has dramatically reduced debate on the floor.
As the Diocesan Treasurer, who is not paid to work for the Diocese, the past 8 or so years working with our Bishop has been exceedingly rewarding. It is my hope with the new Vision Statement we will continue to such good work as works as God has prepared us to do or guides us to do, with the help of Bishop Rickel in years to come.
Respectfully submitted, Barbara A. Fox, Treasurer, The Diocese of Olympia, Inc.