Budget Hearing

Many requested the minutes from the Budget Hearing in anticipation of our Annual Meeting on May 17th. Here is that record:


A Record of the Budget Hearing of the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church

Sunday, April 26, 2015


President Sarah Dengler called the meeting to order at 11:55 a.m.  Thirty-seven members of the congregation and both Rev. Olivia Holmes and Rev. Shayna Appel were present.  Sarah acknowledged that the timing of the budget hearing – on the same day as Lisa Mobayed’s Ordination – was difficult, but necessary, because of the timing of the end of the Stewardship campaign and the timing of the Annual Meeting.  She said that the Standing Committee could offer a second meeting time if it is warranted.

Sarah turned the meeting over to Treasurer Susan Stanbury.  Susan had provided copies of the budget documents for 2015-16.  She explained that the congregation needs reliable budget numbers so that the Interim Search Committee knows what funds are available for ministry in the coming year and she was pleased to announce that $126,000 had been pledged at that time, a total of 84 pledges and a 13% increase over the current year.

On the revenue side, Susan pointed out that she had included the annual $25,000 interest income from the building endowment as revenue, as recommended by Olivia.  The same amount is expended under “Capital projects – upkeep of building, grounds, equipment.”

Susan pointed out that pledge income is projected to go up in the coming year, facility rentals are expected to remain about the same, and fundraising goals are slightly lower.  Susan said that the Church cannot depend upon the same grants for the Community Suppers every year and that funding for the Community Suppers is a topic that the congregation will need to address separately. 

As for expenses, Susan noted that spending remains fairly consistent.  The congregation is paying fair compensation to all of its employees and improving this each year.  In the coming year, professional expenses have been included for the Office Administrator and the Director of Music.  Here Susan Copley asked for an explanation of how the salaries are calculated for the Director of Music and the Organist.  Susan Stanbury explained that the Director of Music is a salaried position and the Organist is fee-based and Olivia said that PUUCs wages are in line with UUA standards.  DRE Char James was new last year and has earned a raise this year. 

Susan took a minute to explain “fair compensation.”   The UUA suggests compensation ranges based upon the type of geographic region and the size of the congregation.  PUUC is a small congregation in what is called Geo Index 2.  This is the basis for determining that the church’s compensation packages are fair.

Susan explained that she has moved Religious Education out of the “Committees” spending category, since committees are run by volunteers and Religious Education is led by paid staff.  The biggest expense in RE is child care.


The Worship committee only paid two speakers this year, netting a little savings. 

Fuel oil expenses are going down and the pellet furnace is beginning to net the church some savings.

Susan listed three places where the budget is going up:

·         The congregation is planning to pay its fair share of UUA and District dues.  In 2014-15 these dues came to $8,000.  In the coming year the church will pay $13,000.

·         The costs for the search for a settled Minister were $5000 in 2014-15 and will be $10,000 in 2015-16.

·         Professional expenses for staff have been increased.

The draft budget shows $253,048 in revenue and 278,882 in expenses, for a projected deficit of ($25,835). 

Susan then opened the floor for comments and questions.

John Friede asked why wood pellets cost more than expected.  Jim Fearnside said that the furnace still needs some fine tuning and also that users may need more training on how to turn the system down.  He will be looking into that issue and expects to make the process more efficient.

Phil Jones asked about the deficit, explaining that the Interim Search Committee needs a solid budget to work from. 

Susan ran through several Interim Minister Scenarios, which she had provided on a handout, explaining that there are negotiable points in the choices.  She also pointed out that many people have asked if the church could keep the current team of Rev. Appel and Rev. Holmes.  Also, the Church can hire a Minister for less than full time.

One of the Interim Minister Scenarios is based upon what Minister David Robins was making when he retired.  Rob Eichler pointed out that if the Church were to base the Interim Minister’s salary on the mid-range of UUA guidelines for churches like PUUC and then hire a Minister for ¾ time, the whole deficit would be erased.  Rob pointed out that if the Church does hire a Minister for less than full time, it would probably require more commitment on the part of the Worship Committee, which is losing some of its most experienced members right now.  This could be a challenge. 

Chris Thurston said that in her experience when a professional is hired for less than full time, that person ends up working full time for less than full time wages.

John Richards asked if the Church really needs to spend $25,000 per year on upkeep of the building.  Susan explained that the Property committee has managed these funds for the past 7-8 years since the endowment was restructured and that it always has a list of building maintenance and improvement projects to be done.  Jim Fearnside said that the next two projects on the list are to paint parts of the Sanctuary and Parish Hall and to rehang the front doors so that they open out, as required by fire code.  Jill Shaffer-Hammond, who served on the committee that restructured the endowment, said that $500,000 was set aside for the building fund, and interest from that investment provides the funds to maintain the building.  The fund is doing its job and these funds cannot be used for anything but the building.

John Friede endorsed basing the Minister’s salary on the mid-range rather than on the previous Minister’s salary and Susan explained that the UUA guidelines give a range of options within each category of geographic area and congregational size.

Margaret Warner recommended a full-time Minister in the mid/max range.

Rick Miller reminded the group that the $7500 grant for the Community Supper is not a given, so there is potential there for another deficit.

Olivia suggested that if the Church wants a full-time Interim Minister, but can’t really afford it in 2015-16, and it doesn’t want to put itself in the position of committing every cent available and then possibly coming up short, that it could consider hiring a ¾-time Interim Minister.  She also pointed out that people have asked if Shayna can stay, and said that Shayna would consider staying, and that ¾-time is of interest to her.  In that scenario, there would be funds available for guest ministers on some Sundays.  She said that the coming interim year could give the Church time to do what it takes to be ready to hire a full-time Settled Minister. 

Mark Beal explained that while the Church wants to be a fair share congregation, the compensation ranges are flexible and subject to interpretation.  A Minister with a high level of training could command the maximum compensation, while a Minister with less training and/or experience may need to work up the wage scale.  In looking forward to the Settled Minister search, the Church would expect to leave room for increases based upon professional development and experience.

As co-chair of Stewardship, Linda Scerbinski said that after the campaign is over we must look at reality.  For the next interim year, perhaps the Church will need to consider ¾-time, but it can be done by discussing the workload and the time available to avoid the circumstances Chris brought up. 

Mark Beal pointed out that if the Interim candidate is local, moving expenses can be eliminated. 

Susan Stanbury mentioned that it is not uncommon to consider taking the one-time search committee expenses ($10,000) out of the operating funds of the endowment. 

Phil Jones pointed out that it is not within the purview of the Interim Search Committee to balance the budget; the group is not making those decisions by itself.

Rob Eichler reminded the group that Olivia had said that hiring a ¾-time Interim Minister and depending upon guest speakers to fill out the preaching schedule could be healthy for this church at this time.  Susan said that there are not many places in this budget to find money, so the ministerial packages are a place to look at options.

Shayna suggested that the Church try part-time and see how creative it can be rather than commit to more than it can really afford.  She also said that at the recent conference on small congregations that she and some members of the congregation attended she noticed that when people mentioned the things that they really loved at their churches they did not mention committee meetings, fundraising and the like.  She would like members of the church to spend more time on the things that are rewarding.

Susan added that the Church has learned a lot this year from Olivia, our Transitions Consulting Minister and there is much more that we can learn and do in the coming year.  She suggested that we can learn to do more on our own and not just rely on our Minister.

Mark Beal, speaking as a Trustee, recommended that the congregation not plan to take the $10,000 for the Settled Minister search out of the endowment funds now.  Instead, he suggested that the planned expenditure be left in the budget and when the time comes, if funds beyond those available are needed, then the church can consider the endowment and other sources of income. 

Ray Dodge thanked Treasurer Susan Stanbury for all of the work that goes into preparation of the budget, the projections for the Ministerial Searches that are underway, and the presentation of the budget to the congregation. Everyone gave Susan a round of applause. 

Sarah thanked the congregation for all of the ideas and suggestions that had been offered.  She said that the Standing Committee will now assess ways to deal with the $25,000 budget deficit, whether it is to consider a ¾-time Interim Minister for the coming year, deleting lines from the budget or considering when to use endowment funds.  She said the Standing Committee will do the best it can to meet the needs of the congregation and balance the budget. 

Rob Eichler asked if the Standing Committee had heard all it needed and requested that a record of the meeting be provided, as it was for the congregational conversation a week ago.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:55 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Meredith Martin, Standing Committee Clerk