Budget Planning FAQ

Annual Budget Planning 2020 – 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the limited budget?

The purpose of the limited budget at this early stage is to understand several different elements related to next year:

  1. The minimum required to ‘keep the lights on’ at St. Johns and maintain operations at St. Johns, even if reduced.
  2. What our income may look like based on early indicators of changes due to COVID-19.
  3. Based on the above two, what the overall bottom line for the church looked like.

There were many areas that working at a very broad level we chose to cut, and in many cases these included areas that our church has historically supported. However, to do due diligence with this early planning, we chose to try to not intentionally create any ‘sacred cows’ in the process.

It is important to remember that the budgets, especially at this early of a stage, are just as much a tool in planning and preparing for next year as anything else, and very few things are concrete.

Why isn’t St. John’s considering to run a significant deficit in the limited budget, since we have the resources at this time?

The board performed it’s first round of budget planning for the 2020 – 2021 Church Year in early April. This budget planning was based in large part off the trends and data that we observed for the month of March after the church facilities were closed due to COVID-19.

While we don’t wish to be alarmist, we did see a significant drop in income. We don’t know if all of that drop will stay constant throughout the year, or if it will rebound as congregants grow more accustomed to digital giving. We do know however that some of the losses in income will be permanent, such as with facility rentals, and that we have had congregants affected by job loss, which will understandably impact their donations.

Based on these early indicators, we project that we may see a real $40K+ deficit for the 2019 – 2020 Church Year, due to decreased income. This number may change, and we are working to take steps to address it as best as we can. However, as a result, we are trying to plan responsibly for not just next year, but the next several years to ensure that we do not use our reserves too rapidly.

In the limited budget, the minimums proposed for the UUA national fee, the regional fees and the UU Cincinnati Council are zero.  Has St. John’s ever budgeted zero for these entities?  Surely our minimum should be at least some percentage of the ideal.

As the budgets are further developed, and we better understand what our financial resources may look like next year, we will have the opportunity to allocate money to this line item. Even within the current limited budget, we have nearly a $15K surplus. The board certainly doesn’t have a desire to see this stay at a zero budget, but it will be a question of where we prioritize our spending over the next year.

The limited budget shows an amount of $60,000 for total non-ministerial staff salaries.  What is the rational for this figure?  Wouldn’t layoffs be required to reach this figure?

At this point, the exact dollar amount reduction in staffing shown in the Limited Budget is still very arbitrary. It is also important to understand that the board is deeply committed to finding ways of keeping the staff at St. Johns. However, staffing does make up approximately 80% of our annual budget. The good is that St. John’s typically runs a very lean budget. This bad is that this creates an issue in down years in that there are limited other places to cut our budget, and we do feel we have to examine this from a due-diligence planning perspective. As a result, we are looking at this area more closely to understand ways we may be able to reduce costs in this area, while maintaining staff. Additionally, if we do have to make changes within staffing, we want to do so in a way that supports our long-term needs of the church. Lastly, regarding staffing and other areas that are showing cuts in funding in the limited budget – we hope that this will continue to be a planning exercise and nothing further.

The limited budget shows $400 for instrument maintenance. This seems low from what we believe should be a higher amount to support 3 minimum required tunings.

Thank you for this input. The $400 budget number was based on halving the requested $800 that was received as input for this line item during the board’s requests to staff and team members for budget inputs. This and many other line items will likely require greater attention to fine tune, and understand if they are necessary costs for the upcoming year if services are being held online only, and choir and other activities may not be meeting for a significant portion of the year.

Where in the budget will the costs for substitute music directors and accompanists come from? It is not entirely clear.

Currently substitute music directors and accompanists are expected to come from the ‘Music Director’ and ‘Accompanist’ line items under the ‘Personnel’ category. A note can be added to the comments for these items to better clarify it going forward.

The property program budget shows an amount of $200 for possible substitute custodian. 

Going forward, we will look to incorporate this cost directly into the ‘Custodian’ line item underneath the ‘Personnel’ line, for consistency with other aspects of the budget.

In the limited budget shows a minimum amount for copier leasing of $3000, with actual costs to date being $3548.31 and a one year lease costing $3800. How do we propose to pay for the copier with only a $3000 minimum budget?

For the limited budget, the value of $3000 shown is a placeholder for investigating if the lease or other costs could be re-negotiated or otherwise lowered, as we would expect to be making significantly fewer copies over the next year if we are not meeting in person. We have heard of other congregations pausing their lease as well, effectively delaying it for several months and adding them to the end of the contract. This will be adjusted upwards over the next month as the budget is developed further and if it does not seem feasible that reduction can be reached.

Do the employment contracts with our music director and accompanist require them to perform every Sunday of the calendar year?  It would be helpful if someone could generally explain how these two people are budgeted and paid.

St. John’s employees are employed at will and do not have employment contracts or letters of agreement. Paid Time Off for all employees is dictated by the Personnel Policy Manual. Each staff member works with the minster to arrange for paid and unpaid time off and to ensure there is adequate staff coverage, especially for Sunday worship.

Our Music Director position is a Salaried Over-Time Eligible position. The position is paid a fixed amount bi-weekly based on a predetermined number of hours. The amount earned in a pay period divided by the number of hours worked in any given week may not be less than the Ohio Minimum Wage and any hours worked in excess of forty hours a week will be compensated with overtime pay per the Fair Labor Standards Act. Our Accompanist position is paid on an hourly basis

Both of these positions are budgeted under the respective ‘Music Director’ and ‘Accompanist’ line items under the ‘Personnel’ line.

An amount of $2,000 is shown for non-ministerial staff development costs.  That appears to be the same budgeted amount as the current fiscal year.  How is this money allocated?  Who makes the allocation? 

The staff development budget is allocated at the discretion of the staff, and the Minister as the head of staff at. St. Johns.

The board of Trustees budget has a ‘contingency’ line item. Isn’t the line item for ‘board expenses’ broad enough to cover contingencies?

The contingency line item can be eliminated and the money re-allocated to create further clarity in the budget.

Regarding health and safety, there are many unknowns as to how we proceed and when we will be able to gather reasonably safely at church again. How do we plan to address these many unknowns?

This is currently one of the most difficult areas the board is having to consider with current budgeting. We have many potential impacts to the church, but we also don’t know when services will resume. We additionally can control some of these costs, such as limiting kitchen activities over the next year.  At this point, the board has had preliminary meetings and discussion on what this might look like, and has asked the Health & Safety team to investigate this further.

The board is also considering a few options to this as well from a funding perspective:

  • Pulling money from the legacy fund, to set up a one-time COVID-19 response fund, which teams can use to fund purchases and resources they feel are necessary to help with COVID-19 and returning to service
  • Finding ways to identify the items necessary based on recommendations from the Health & Safety team, the relevant teams, and fund it from within the operating budget.