Maggie Biggs, Iowa Annual Conference Treasurer and Director of Administrative Services presented the Treasurer’s Report at the Iowa Annual Conference’s Legislative Session.
Biggs shared statistical information about the Iowa Annual Conference, the 2021 Budget, and highlights from various components within the budget, a breakdown of apportionment receipts, and recent actions by the Council on Finance and Administration.
Biggs shared the following statistics:
- Worship (average attendance to weekly worship services): In 2014 was 51,848 and in 2019 was 42,131.
- Evangelism (the number of members received through the profession of faith through confirmation and other means): In 2014 was 2,116 and in 2019 was 1,534
- Spiritual Formation (those who participated in Christian formation groups): In 2014 was 87,977 and in 2019 was 76,750.
- Mission Engagement (example include Volunteers in Mission and other mission groups): At its highest in 2016 of 28,235 and 2019 was 26,447.
- Stewardship (which includes Apportionments, District Askings, General Advanced Specials, Special Sundays, plus money not sent through the Iowa Annual Conference): In 2014 was $18,636,689 and in 2019 was $11,289,240.
- Membership: Membership has had a steady decrease of 2% every year since 2014 which was 168,512 and in 2019 was 150,656 members.
Biggs went on to look over the 2021 Budget which is found on page 16 of the Pre-Conference Manual
“So out of the total budget, 22% is made up of General Church Apportionments, 36% is made up of the Connectional Resources section and 29% is the Clergy and Congregational support, and out of the total budget 13% is for Conference Missions,” said Biggs.
Next, Biggs showed a recap of the 2021 budget. She explained that there are some significant changes from the 2020 budget. The total for the 2021 budget was $9,724,498. It is a reduction of $3.4 million or a negative 25.9%. She explained some of the elements that have allowed for such a large decrease.
First, Biggs explained that there has been an elimination of the allowance for unpaid apportionments. This, she said, is very significant and very important because, for the last 24 years, there has been in place either spending limits under each program or more recently, a line item for allowance for unpaid/uncollected apportionments. Beginning with the 2021 budget, the Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) has eliminated the allowance for uncollectible apportionments.
“This change is occurring at a time when cash reserves are decreasing and there are many uncertainties in our Conference. For this reason, every local church must be dedicated to paying 100% of their apportionments,” said Biggs. “I'll say it has provided funds for programs so that they could rely upon their full budgeted request and not rely on any cushion in their budget. Now, it has been shown as a separate line item, as I indicated in the budget. This provides transparency in the fact that not all churches pay 100%. It affected the local churches in that it did increase the Apportionment budget in total. Removing it lowers some church apportionments but also makes operations of the Conference and programs rely on cash reserves to make up the difference when churches do not pay 100%.”
The second element that is allowing for a much smaller 2021 budget is CFA's recommendation for a change in a standing item, which is Action Item 105 on page 20 of the pre-conference manual. CFA has traditionally held the long-standing opinion that the Iowa Annual Conference should set the example by paying 100% of General Church Apportionments each year.
CFA is asking for a change in that standing item so that this decision is put into the hands of each of our local churches. This would be removing the requirement that the Iowa Annual Conference pay 100% apportionments to the General Church. Those funds sent in from local churches specifically for the line item General Churches Apportionments would be passed along to the General CFA.
Biggs went on to explain, “We can still pay 100% of our General Church Apportionment but it will be up to each of our local churches. You will be asked to vote on this standing item change, and it would become effective with the 2020 General Church Apportionments.”
As has been the case over the last many years, the budget has been reduced because of cost-cutting measures. The leadership team of the Conference has been working toward reducing the costs of doing the business of the Annual Conference. These cost-saving items have included running the Conference Center building as efficiently as possible, eliminating or reducing services, reducing cleaning services, having less trash pickup, consolidated job responsibilities, foregoing pay raises, reducing staff positions, eliminating district offices and restructuring services provided by the Iowa Annual Conference.
Biggs went on to detail the percent that the Iowa Annual Conference receives in apportionments from local churches. In 2019, the number who paid 100% by the deadline was 399.
“We know that most churches want to be connectional and do believe in the importance of our worldwide connection, yet are struggling as older congregations, high repair costs to buildings, winter storms, flooding, and worldwide pandemics affecting attendance and giving,” said Biggs.
Earlier this year, CFA initiated the use of a policy that is called the Contingency Plan. This plan calls for reducing expenditures by the Conference, as a whole, except for the main operating expenses where possible.
The Conference also applied and received a Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) loan for $1.2 million in May of this year, which came at a time when the Conference was very uncertain of the impact of COVID-19.
In combination with the previous challenges facing our Conference and denomination, the Iowa Annual Conference is following the guidelines and working toward making the PPP loan forgivable under the Small Business Association’s rules. It is hoped that the forgivable loan will strengthen the Annual Conference at an unprecedented time.
“You are being asked today to consider the standing rule change and to act on the 2021 budget as recommended by CFA,” concluded Biggs.
Rev. Mike Biklen asked to remove Action Item #105 from the Consent Calendar 1B wanting it to be restored so that it will continue to read, "The Iowa Annual Conference, being a model of accountability for local congregations, shall pass General Conference apportionments in full, these apportionments shall be the first benevolent responsibility of the Annual Conference."
The Biklen Amendment to Action Item #105 failed to pass with a final vote of 205 yes to 484 no.
Allen Allard, laity, made an amendment to Action Item #105 asking to restore the language on lines 44-45 which had deleted, “The budget format will be presented showing the estimated uncollectible amount of apportionments.”
The Allard Amendment failed to pass with a final vote of 198 yes to 475 no.
Action Item #105 passed, as written, with a final vote of 565 yes to 116 no.
The final budget passed with a final vote of 570 yes to 41 no.