Report from Trent-Durham Pre-Synod meeting

Posted on October 20, 2011

The following is a report from the Trent-Durham Pre-Synod meeting, held Oct. 18 at St. John the Evangelist, Peterborough.

The meeting opened with a prayer and a hymn.

Report to Synod on 2009 to 2011
The report is found in Section B of the Convening Circular. The Rev. Judith Herron-Graham presented the report. Mr. Michael Joshua, the diocese’s Treasurer and Director of Finance, presented the financial highlights. Mr. Peter Misiaszek, Director of Stewardship Development, spoke about the diocese’s fundraising campaign Our Faith-Our Hope: Re-Imagine Church. There were no questions.

Highlights from Trent-Durham, 2009 to 2011
Bishop Linda Nicholls spoke about the designation of three chapels of ease, and the use of grants for ministry in Trent-Durham. She said she is committed to creating more curacies in parishes in Trent-Durham. She spoke about Reach grants received for youth ministry and a fresh expression of church in a women’s shelter.

2011 Area Council Report
The report is available on the Other Reports to Synod page of the Synod section of the website.

Youth Coordinator Report
Mr. Christian Harvey, the Area Youth Social Justice Coordinator, presented a report on youth ministry in Trent-Durham.

2010 Financial Statements
The Report regarding the 2010 Audited Financial Statements is found in Section C of the Convening Circular. Mr. Michael Joshua presented the 2010 Financial Statements. There were no questions.

Priorities and Plans 2011-2013
The Priorities and Plans 2011-2013, including the high level financial picture, are found in Section D of the Convening Circular. The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Hardy, Chief Administrative Officer & Secretary of Synod, presented.

Budget Process
The budget for 2012 and 2013 can be found in Section D of the Convening Circular.
The Rev. Ted McCollum, a member of the diocese’s Budget Working Group, spoke about the process that the group used to create the proposed budget for 2012 and 2013. “We wanted to make sure as much money as possible stays in the parishes,” he said. He said the recommended increase in parish assessment is less than 1 % for 2012 and possibly less than .75 % in 2013. A question followed.

Q: How accurate are the understandings of interest on capital? I know the markets are unstable and the situation in Europe is uncertain. Are we going to see far less income than is actually expected?
A: We set the budget in June. The Investment Committee is meeting this Thursday to discuss the dividend rate that will be declared for 2012. We’ve put in a figure of 5 %. As you recall, back in June the markets were doing better than they are now. The Investment Committee will be meeting with all three managers, talking about different options. As mentioned, we have budgeted for 5 % but realize there may be a need for a course correction in the New Year if the dividend rate is lower, based on what the Investment Committee recommends to Diocesan Council for 2012.

2011-2013 Financial Plan
The 2011-2013 Financial Plan is found in Section D of the Convening Circular. Mr. Michael Joshua, Treasurer and Director of Finance, presented.

Assessment rate
The parish assessment rate is found in Section E, page 1, of the Convening Circular. In order to meet the revenue needs of the Diocese for 2012, the assessment rate for parishes is being proposed at 24.39% for 2012. That is an increase in parish assessment of less than 1 % for 2012 and possibly less than .75 % in 2013. Questions followed.

Q: I have some questions about some specific numbers on Page 3 of Section D. Stewardship Development has an increase of $31,000 in 2012 and another increase of $27,000 in 2013 for a Planned Giving Consultant to assist us in educating about this. So why does it need $27,000 and $31,000 over two years? Also, what if I disagree with that? Do I have to say no to the whole thing?
A: The 2012 increase is for an adjustment in salaries and benefits. There were COLA and merit increases within the budget. The Planned Giving consultant has been budgeted for 2013, and we are planning for half of that position to be funded by the national office. The Budget in 2013 reflects half of the cost of the position. In response to the second question, the budget is either received as a whole or rejected as a whole. You may move an amendment, but trying to amend a budget of this size on the floor of synod is difficult.

Q: Are there details available for the audited financial statements and also the proposed budget online? I’d like to see more before I vote on something and a detail would be very helpful.
A: The detailed audited financial statements are available on the diocesan website.  With respect to the proposed budget, line by line detail is used by the Budget Working Group to prepare the budget for Diocesan Council to vote on.  At Synod, Diocesan Council presents the “High Level Financial Picture”.  Questions about the detail can be asked of the Treasurer, but more detail is not normally provided to Synod. We will produce a more detailed document and it will be available on the website by Friday evening, Oct. 21

Q: We come to the Pre-Synod meeting and everything is presented to us. I’m hearing that we can’t really change anything at this point, so at what point in the budgeting process can people have an opportunity to look at the numbers before they are accepted?
A: Diocesan Council is entrusted in between Synods for overseeing the process. The laity and clergy who have been elected make up the Budget Working Group. I don’t think we’ve ever had the opportunity, in a Pre-Synod meeting or as the budget is being developed through the Diocesan Council, to include members from Trent-Durham, as the expectation is that they would bring their interests and concerns of the Area to Council. A Budget Working Group is comprised of members of Council to produce a draft budget that goes to Council for approval. Trent-Durham had two members on the Budget Working Group – the Rev. Ted McCollum and Ms. Leslie Hadju. Previously there had been attempts to ask each area to work on the budget but it was found that the process was extremely cumbersome and that the proposed expenditures were very high as each area attempted to address all concerns. If there is a budget item that you disagree with, you can make a motion, with a seconder, and have a vote to take this concern back to Council before Synod. You of course can also do this at Synod.

A: The other place where people need to speak is to the priorities. If you believe that the priorities are not the priorities that the diocese should focus on, then that needs to be said. It’s really about the priorities you want to see established.

Area elections
The following were elected Area Representatives to Diocesan Council:
The Rev. Eugene Berlenbach, St. Barnabas, Peterborough
Mr. Peter Davidson, St. Martin , Bay Ridges (Pickering)
Ms. Leslie Hajdu, St. George, Pickering (Ajax)

Constitution and Canons changes
Changes to the Constitution and Canons can be found in Section F of the Convening Circular. Mr. Peter Davidson presented. Bishop Nicholls said that in regards to parish audits, it is a legal requirement of parishes under the Provincial law of the Ontario Business Corporations Act. We are obligated under law to do the audits.

Q: I wouldn’t expect that most parishes are actually incorporated.
A: All the parishes are incorporated.  They do not have their own incorporation number, but they are all incorporated under the Province of Ontario.

Q: Will review engagement and  audit costs be a (deductable) ministry expense?
A: No. Canon 4 lists the costs that are deductable.  Costs for conducting audits are an administrative expense.

Q: Bishop Nicholls asked if there were two or three people willing to work with her to see if there is any possibility of finding an accounting firm in the Trent-Durham area who would be prepared to work with us on doing audits for a reasonable rate.

Q: Since the diocese has a business number, is there any way of going back to the Province and asking them if they intended for every congregation to do an audit or did they intend for the Diocese of Toronto to audit the diocese?
A: We will ask the Chancellor for his opinion.

Q: What business number are we referring to – the Provincial government or Federal government?
A: The Federal number that churches are assigned is their Charitable Registration Number.  We are referring to the status of our parishes as a Corporation under the laws of Ontario.

Comment: Some of you might think that if you’re part of a three-point parish, it’s a parish as a whole that would be under this particular corporation number, but in fact each church (congregation) is a separate corporation under this Act.

Q: I’ve learned that there is an Ad Hoc committee of Council that is doing the work of the former Treasury Board. Is it wise to be removing this canon completely when it has now been identified as a need?
A: There is now a small committee, the Accounts Receivable Committee. Its mandate is to review the overdue account list. Members strategize to see how assistance can be provided  This is the function of the former Treasury Board that you are referring to.

Q: As I understand it in the canons, we have to have our vestry by the end of February. If we’re now all doing audits, would there be any leeway of extending that deadline for holding a vestry?
A: Yes, with Council’s permission a congregation may opt to change their fiscal year-end.  Alternatively, a special vestry meeting may be held at a later time to review the audited financial statements. Or you can choose to have a slightly later meeting.

Motions to Synod
Two motions from Synod members will be coming to Synod. They can be found in Section A, page 20, of the Convening Circular.

The meeting ended with a prayer and a hymn.

The next Pre-Synod meeting will be held at St. Peter, Scarborough on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. for Synod members in the episcopal area of York-Scarborough. See the schedule of Pre-Synod meetings.