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Conference ‘rolls back’ 2009 apportionments to 2008 levels

Conference ‘rolls back’ 2009 apportionments to 2008 levels

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference ‘rolls back’ 2009 apportionments to 2008 levels

By Erik J. Alsgaard | Feb. 20, 2009 {0976}

NOTE: Headshots of Mickey Wilson and the Rev. Tim Smiley are available at

LAKELAND, Fla. — Local churches in the Florida Conference — already hit hard by the downturn in the economy — are receiving some good news from the conference's finance and administration council.

The Florida Conference Council on Finance and Administration voted at its last meeting to roll back 2009 apportionments to 2008 levels to help local churches cope during the current economic crisis. Graphic by Greg Moore.

Effective immediately and retroactively, apportionment levels for 2009 will be “rolled back” to 2008 levels, resulting in a nearly 10 percent reduction in the amount of money churches will contribute to their connectional giving.

The new 2009 apportionments won’t be exactly the same as 2008 levels because some churches have closed and others have moved to mission status and don’t pay apportionments, said Mickey Wilson, treasurer for the Florida Conference. Churches should be notified of their new apportionments by mid-March.

“We recognize the effect the current economic climate is having on our local churches,” Wilson said. “CFA (conference Council on Finance and Administration) felt it should be proactive in helping them. The more money we can leave at the local churches so they can continue on their mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, the better.”

Mickey Wilson

CFA acknowledges the rollback measure is happening on the eve of a special session to look at the possibility of selling the current Florida Conference Center in Lakeland and buying a new building. Some people have asked — and CFA noted — if this is a good time to be entertaining such a move, given the current economic climate.

“It’s the perfect time to being doing this,” Wilson said. “CFA was very supportive of the possibility. We’re expecting to receive maximum value for the current piece of property; the price on the possible new building has dropped significantly because of the economy. The opportunity for the (Florida) United Methodist Foundation to come back with us was there, too. It’s the perfect time.”

There would be a time in the future, Wilson added, when expenditures to repair and update the current conference center buildings would be necessary. By selling the current facility and purchasing the proposed new site, local churches will not be asked to contribute to these costs, Wilson said.

Members to the Florida Annual Conference Event approve apportionments each year. A total dollar amount is approved as the conference budget, of which about 44 percent is set by the General Church for mission and ministry around the world. The remaining 56 percent is for ministry in Florida, the majority of which is called “Connectional Ministry,” such as higher education and campus ministry, and congregational transformation, camping and retreat ministry, communications and clergy support.

Rev. Tim Smiley

The rollback, approved at CFA’s Feb. 13 meeting in Lakeland, will send a signal to local churches that the conference is taking the financial crisis seriously, said the Rev. Tim Smiley, chairman of CFA and pastor at Plantation United Methodist Church.

Smiley said conference reserves will make up the difference between what was apportioned in 2009 and what will now be, in effect, 2008 apportionment levels.

“Because of the good stewardship efforts over the years of our Florida Conference churches, we were able to build adequate reserves for a rainy day,” Smiley said. “And today, it’s a monsoon. God has blessed us with the ability to use these reserve dollars to make it just a little bit easier for local churches.”

CFA members — consisting of clergy and laity — learned from Wilson that the conference’s reserves as of Dec. 31, 2008, totaled $6.7 million, a drop of about $480,000 over 2007 totals.

Reserves, Wilson said, have not been exposed to the recent fluctuations in the stock market and have drawn a steady 4 percent return. Reserves dropped in 2008 because receipts on apportionments for 2008 came in at 83.95 percent, down from 84.99 percent in 2007.

“We didn’t anticipate the market downturn, and we thought that local churches would return about 85 percent on apportionments,” Wilson said. “We have been blessed with good stewardship at the conference level. The reserves need to be returned to the local churches in the form of lower apportionments.”

During discussion on the rollback, several CFA members said the move would send a welcome message to local churches.

“This is an honest attempt by the conference to say to local churches, ‘we feel your pain,’ ” said the Rev. David Brazelton, pastor of Mandarin United Methodist Church in Jacksonville and a former district superintendent. “We think that 2009 is going to be a tough year. This will go a long way to help.”

Durwood Howell, a member of Aloma United Methodist Church in Winter Park, said he agreed with the move by CFA, but was worried about the future.

“ ... God has blessed us with the ability to use these reserve dollars to make it just a little bit easier for local churches.

Rev. Tim Smiley

“This sends a good message today,” he said. “But what about three years from now? Is there going to be a sudden rise — a pop — in apportionments?”

After unanimously adopting the motion to rollback apportionments, CFA members turned their attention to the 2010 budget. Original budget requests from the various ministry areas — including the general church — saw the 2010 request rise 7 percent from 2009 levels. CFA members agreed the increase was too high and sent the requests back to conference staff for re-tooling with instructions to keep the overall budget flat, meaning no increase from 2009 to 2010.

Even with the decrease and the added distribution from the reserves to enable the rollback, Wilson assured CFA the conference has adequate reserves to see it through these tough times.

“Although the future is uncertain, the conference remains financially sound,” Wilson said. “CFA will continue to monitor the situation.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.