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Following the Money: Annual Council Diary

With the strong US dollar affecting the exchange rate for the eight different currencies in which the Seventh-day Adventist Church receives funds, the General Conference showed a loss of just over $19 million as of December 31, 2015, according to Treasurer Juan Prestol-Puesan. In the first nine months of 2016, the value has stabilized but at a much lower rate, he added.

In September, the Treasury Department met with the employees to discuss the need to cut expenses. The 2017 world budget brought to the Executive Meeting on Monday showed a $7.6 million reduction compared to the 2016 World Budget.  The actions to shave that amount off spending include the following:

  • A funding reduction of the General Conference Auditing Service (GCAS) that will yield $4.8 million in savings.
  • A change in the long-term practice of paying appropriations in U.S. dollars. Instead local currencies will be used. They will be creating customized tools to accommodate local situations.
  • Office Operating expenses maintained within the Cap (2% of the world tithe is supposed to be the cap on GC operating expenses). With world tithe down in U.S. dollars, the 2% cap has gone down. Expense reductions were made within the cap, but Prestol-Puesan said they may have to come back and request an exception in the spring. That hasn’t been done in the past 15 years.
  • Temporary delay in filling positions in 2017. New positions will be referred to the three executive officers for clarification and prioritization.
  • Not funding depreciation expense. The scheduled departure of the NAD from the building means there is one less entity to help care for the operating of the GC building. 
  • Reducing travel budgets by 10%, special projects by half, cut to $275,000. 

He reminded them of the April vote to draw $10 million from budget reserves to help balance the budget.

Where do we go from here he asked? In 2015, a stewardship ministry director position was created in each of the divisions to guide and show members the blessings of giving. He said that results from that are beginning to be seen. He reminded the audience to acknowledge how important our precious members are. “Never take for granted their giving. In their faithfulness in giving week in and week, they are sharing a portion of their lives. What we do is not possible without the faithfulness of local treasurers and the giving of our members.”

The recommended action voted was to put a freeze on working capital. Rather than accumulating to 50%, it will be held at 45% between now and 2020. The one question from the floor concerned what the ratio between the U.S. dollar and the other currencies would be once a correction to the U.S. dollar occurred. Prestol-Puesan answered that some currencies affect the situation more than others. He said he was praying for the Brazilian real, and that improvement in the Mexican peso would help, too.

What was not mentioned by either the treasurer or the committee members was the possible effect of the proposed action against the two North American unions that is scheduled to be discussed on Tuesday.

Photo: Juan R. Prestol-Puesán, treasurer of the Seventh-day Adventist church, presents the Treasurer's Report to delgates at Annual Council in Silver Spring, MD, USA (Credit: Brent Hardinge/ANN).

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