October 21, 2013

Convention Questions

The Board of Directors of Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh met October 14 to discuss materials for the upcoming diocesan convention. The primary focus was on the proposed budget, which involves significant cuts. The board developed a list of questions to which board members felt answers were needed. The hope was that many of these questions would be asked and answered at the three “pre-convention information sessions” on October 15, 17, and 20. In large measure, these questions were asked, but the answers were not always satisfying. The questions, as distributed October 15 by the board, are reproduced below.

Last night, the PEP Board met to discuss the Convention and what constructive questions could reasonably be asked at the pre-convention meetings.

Although the board discussed other matters as well, much of our conversation centered on the budget. Much of the work of the diocese, of course, is reflected in the budget, and we have much less money to spend this year than last. This problem is largely dealt with in the proposed budget by cutting staff salaries. We thought perhaps there were other, better, options.

Here are some questions we believe should be asked at the upcoming meetings that begin tonight. (The schedule of meetings is here.)
  1. It seemed this year like we missed the bishop a lot. It turns out that he was out of the diocese for something like three months. Does that have an impact on the budget? Should it?
  2. The bishop’s travel expenses budgeted for last year and this coming year are $10,000. That seems quite steep for travel. Did we pay for his African trip? How much? Since it is not a mission of this diocese and this is an austerity budget, should we reasonably expect to be paying for it? Shouldn’t the bishop be taking vacation time for such activities and paying for them himself?
  3. We have three canons. Although we love them as people and priests, does the diocese really need three canons? What, exactly are their duties? If the Canon Missioner position is to end in June as announced, is the budgeted salary for half a year? Or if the Canon Missioner continues, is the salary for the whole year?
  4. Do we have job descriptions for diocesan canons and staff? Do we know how much time each task is expected to take? How are the individual budgets administered? How is performance evaluated?
  5. If we are cutting salaries, how is the work going to get done? Are we truly restructuring or just cutting salaries with no actual thought as to how the same amount of work is going to get done in fewer hours?
  6. Canon VII states that “[t]here shall be a Treasurer for the Diocese” and “[t]here shall be a Director of Administration for the Diocese.” The diocese currently has neither. The budget shows a salary line for “Treasurer and Director of Administration” that is 28.9% less than what was budgeted last year. Managing the office and managing the finances are rather different skills. Do we expect to find them in one person? Or are we funding two (or even one) half-time job?
  7. The budget line for Other Youth Missions ($10,000 in the 2012 budget, but $0 in the 2013 and 2014 budgets) is perplexing, given of goal of reaching out to youth. The Episcopal Youth Event (EYE), which is held every three years, will be in Philadelphia in 2014, and it would be exciting if our youth could participate. Why are we not accumulating funds for them the same way we do for our General Convention deputies?
If we are going to function with less money in the budget, perhaps we should be about reorganizing the diocese and the budget around what our priorities truly are. We are neither a “corporate” diocese nor a circuit-riding diocese. We have to create a structure and a budget that answer our needs more efficiently.

—The PEP Board of Directors

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