LAKELAND – Things are looking up financially for the Florida Conference, but good stewardship dictates continued efficient use of funds, said conference treasurer Mickey Wilson.
That's why, for the second consecutive year, the recommended budget for next year's Florida Conference has dipped a little, to $17.3 million.
"I think we're very strong," Wilson said of the conference's financial outlook, adding that he expects to report a net increase in the value of assets of about $7 million at the 2013 Annual Conference next month.
"I don't remember us ever being this strong."
Apportionment revenues are up, conference programs that depend on investment revenues for funding are seeing increases, and the clergy pension program remains fully funded. Wilson attributed the rosy financial picture primarily to recent rebounds in the stock market.
An improved economy also likely fueled the best record of churches paying their full apportionments in several years, he said.
"We had the largest number of churches  paying at 100 percent that we have had in a long time," Wilson said. That meant the conference collected 85 percent of congregations' shares for funding of conference and General Church ministries.
Even so, the Council on Finance and Administration is recommending a $17.3 million budget for 2014, a reduction of about $300,000 from this year.
Wilson said much of the savings stem from the recent reorganization of Congregational Excellence and New Church Development offices that will take effect in June. Some of the responsibilities of the two departments were combined into a new ministry called Congregational Vitality, and others will fall to a new department called Missional Engagement.
The changes resulted in a net decrease in staff salaries and expenses. But, Wilson said, "The purpose was not to save money but to make it more efficient … and align those resources with the mission of the church."
Under the proposed budget, about $10.4 million will stay in Florida to pay for conference ministries, administration and clergy support. That leaves about $6.9 million for programs shepherded by the General Church.
Delegates will be asked to approve the recommendation at Annual Conference 2013, scheduled for June 13-15 at The Lakeland Center, 701 W. Lime St. If the proposed budget is approved, apportionment requests of Florida Conference churches will remain roughly the same this year as in 2012.
-- Susan Green is the editor of Florida Conference Connection.