Plymouth Looking Forward
As we’ve been in preparation for the June 11 Annual Meeting, the Deacons see anew that dealing with the budget leads us into significant questions about Plymouth’s future. Because our decisions reflect our values and faith commitments, they will define the future of Plymouth Church. We propose then a six-month period of conversations that will culminate in a budget that will be voted on at a Special Congregational Meeting in December and will also be part of the larger work of congregational renewal.
Last summer, Plymouth set a budget that anticipated a “new normal,” following the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic. We estimated a strong response to our stewardship campaign and did our best to forecast the expenses to support a full return to in-person activities.
In the year since, we have learned much. On the income side, individual givers continue making the same or greater contributions, but the count of givers continues its downward trend, and income is well below what we had budgeted. On the expense side, we see upward pressure from inflation as well as the effects of discretionary and non-discretionary choices, and as a result, expenses are above budget. While church staff are working to align spending and income, the current year’s gap is substantial.
Unfortunately, the pressures experienced through this year seem likely to continue. For FY24, Church staff proposed a budget that incorporated current cost estimates, some cuts, and some additional spending in line with Plymouth’s priorities. The Board of Finance and Administration reviewed the budget and recommended that it be revised with a lower income forecast and less spending. The Board, in recognition of the impact of the cuts necessary to align with their recommendation, also suggested that an interim budget be proposed in June, to give the congregation an opportunity to provide input on what comes next.
The Church staff brought a revised budget to the Deacons for approval. In summary, it is a short-term budget provides time determining what comes next. It covers a 6-month period instead of a full year. It incorporates a lower income forecast. It adopts many cuts that, while not painless, were tolerable and/or reversible. It does incorporate salary increases recommended by the Human Resources committee, which are largely irreversible. This budget requires a higher draw than the Board recommended.
The Deacons approved this budget for consideration during the Annual Meeting on June 11. In addition, the Deacons will propose a set of activities in the immediate, medium, and long terms to help discern the best course through this transformation.
Immediate (Now – June):
Make visible and explicit the link between the budget and our values, vision, and future.
Adopt a lead minister-proposed 6mo budget for July- December 2023.
Convene two overlapping but differently aimed conversations related to the budget
Focusing on the budget itself, led by DeWayne, Mike McCallister, Treasurer, and Anne Gustafson, Director of Operations (in person and on Zoom)
Wednesday, May 31 at 6 p.m.
Thursday, June 1 at 3 p.m.
Focusing on the spiritual dimensions of our budget-making: What’s at Stake:
The Spiritual Heart of Plymouth’s Budget, led by the Deacons
Sunday, June 4, 10 a.m. in the Chapel
Sunday, June 4, 12 p.m. in the Sanctuary
We also have a plan for medium and longer-term responses that we’ll be sending out in the next weeks.
We look forward to your participation in this soulful work.