Bishop Skelton, Delegates and Alternates to the Convention of the Diocese of Olympia,
Once again, it has been an honor to serve the Diocese this past year as your Treasurer, and I want to thank Canon Dede, Canon Arienne, Cristi Chapman (Chair of Budget and Finance), the Accounting Staff (Charles Thorne, Canon for Finance, Edie Pehrson, Lori Hardow, and I wish to welcome Mekdes Teleale to our staff). Finally, I especially want to thank Dennis Tierney, our Property Manager, who, though only paid half-time, handles a full-time workload. His expertise and diocesan knowledge have helped guide the Board and me through a myriad of property details.
I noted last year that the Diocese of Olympia is one of the largest landholders in Western Washington. As such, the Board of Directors spends a lot of its time on property matters. This year, they created a Property Committee to evaluate property values and to negotiate with realtors when buying and selling properties. This allows negotiations to continue and finalize without having to periodically stop to await a Board meeting for approval of each negotiated step. This year, the Bishop’s Condo was sold, and the funds were set aside to await the new bishop’s requirement. Starter homes on the Lake City property are now in the process of being built. At St. Luke’s Ballard, ground will soon be broken to begin the building of a new church and its 84 affordable housing units. The property at Elma has been sold to another Christian congregation that will continue to serve the needs of the area, and the property in Monroe is now on the market. We are negotiating two other properties attached to missions whose sale will support their needs. And properties are continuously being brought to the attention of the Board that require investigation for possible future missionary growth.
Last year, I reported our frustration with BDO to complete the audit for 2020. Unfortunately, BDO has shown no progress, and we have been forced to engage Clark Nuber to do the work instead, as they were already working on audits for 2021 and 2022. Both of which had been delayed by BDO’s inability to complete their work for 2020. Once Clark Nuber completes the audit for 2020, the others should follow shortly thereafter.
Last year, I reported how I meet every Wednesday with Canon Dede, Charles Thorne, Cristi Chapman, and Canon Arienne to discuss financial issues that may have arisen in the course of the week. Their combined knowledge of the Diocese and finance gives great counsel. An unusual situation with the Diocese of Olympia is that the State of Washington requires a separate Board of Directors to oversee the investments and physical assets of a non-profit. In other Episcopal dioceses, the Council, with advice from an investment committee, handles the majority of the finances of a diocese. Thus, in the Diocese of Olympia, the question often arises of who handles what when a financial question arises. Also, there is the problem of each governing body focusing on its particular responsibility that it fails to recognize how it affects another, one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing. Bishop Rickel attempted to solve that problem by creating the Joint Finance Panel to give advice and to share information. They meet quarterly. But often, issues arise suddenly or may be minor, not needing to call a meeting. This is how our weekly meetings help. They have no authority to act, but they can direct issues to the proper governing body or alert governing bodies when interests coincide and help set agendas for the meetings of the Joint Finance Panel. I feel most fortunate for their overview, advice, and assistance to help guide the finances of the Diocese.
This is a year of transition as we prepare to elect a new bishop to lead us. I felt it important that we revisit the budget-making process to find room to allow a new bishop to eventually bring their own programs into the budget. At the weekly meetings, I heard that the Circles of Color, a high priority of the Diocese, did not feel they had a word in the making of the budget. I suggested that we bring members onto the Budget and Finance Committee. Now fully half of the Committee are members of the Circles of Color. In looking to bring even more input into the budget process, I suggested we revisit an old strategy that had not been needed in recent years, that of bringing together those who oversee portions of the budget to see where they might find areas to work together and thus bring down costs and/or to find other sources of revenue. That meeting was so successful that I have heard that individual talks are still continuing. Finally, we have a budget that is less than last year’s without cutting services, but we still have a way to go as we look forward to putting together the following year’s budget.
As treasurer, I am happy to report that the finances of the Diocese are strong. The economy and, thus, our investments are doing well. Despite churches having to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, assessments remain strong. We do note a few churches are struggling, but overall assessments are up. Our employees continue to manage their expenses while looking for ways to work together to save resources. Of course, the economy can change all that, but currently, we are well-positioned to welcome a new bishop diocesan.
I move to ratify the 2024 budget as presented.