DECATUR, Ga. — Starting March 1, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) will operate on a contingency spending plan that cuts staff salaries by 1 percent and reduces funding for theology schools and other CBF partner organizations by 30 percent.
The plan, adopted by the CBF advisory council and reported to the full CBF Coordinating Council Feb. 19-20, saves $5.5 million over the next 19 months.
Connie McNeill, the Fellowship’s coordinator of administration, said the cutbacks anticipate a worst-case scenario of revenue projections during the current economic recession. Should the financial picture get brighter, she said, the cuts will be only temporary.
“You can imagine that these have been painful and thoughtful decisions,” McNeill said. “We are fully aware of the possible implications to the entire Fellowship movement. We also know that we are held responsible by you to be good fiscal managers of CBF.”
McNeill said no current CBF employees will lose their jobs in the contingency plan, but some vacant positions will not be filled. She said further staff reductions could come in the future, however.
Daniel Vestal, CBF’s executive coordinator, is recovering from surgery and did not attend the meeting.
The plan cuts salaries by 1 percent across the board and decreases contributions to employees’ retirement plans by 3 percent. It includes no raises in 2010, reduces travel by 20 percent and requires employees to reimburse CBF for personal use of their cell phones.
CBF has about 60 paid employees at its headquarters in Atlanta, along with 135 global-mission personnel in 29 countries. Thirty-five of those missionaries are CBF “affiliates,” who are commissioned by CBF but provide or raise their own support.
The contingency plan also cuts funding for 15 theological schools and 17 other autonomous “partners” that receive part of their support through CBF. They include Associated Baptist Press, which stands to see its $110,000 annual CBF allocation — about a fifth of its annual budget — reduced by $33,000 in each of the next two budget years.
Jack Glasgow, CBF moderator, said receipts early in the fiscal year were about 79 percent of budget levels, prompting CBF to cut back spending to 80 percent of amounts approved in the 2008-2009 budget adopted at last year’s General Assembly in Memphis, Tenn.
“This is a spending plan that is an effort to match our current spending with receipts, and it is based on the early-fiscal-year look at receipts,” said Glasgow, pastor of Zebulon Baptist Church in Zebulon, N.C.
Glasgow said in an interview that partners would be cut at a higher level — 30 percent instead of 20 percent — because they have the possibility of making up the difference from other sources.
“With partners and schools, CBF funding is a piece the funding,” Glasgow said. “A 20 percent cut is a real 20 percent cut to us.”
CBF leaders said they decided to tighten the belt now, rather than waiting for a crisis that could force even harder decisions down the road.
“We’re trying to figure out how not to panic,” said Colleen Burroughs, chair of the CBF finance committee. “Everybody in America is panicking right now. It’s better to come up with a plan now to spend wisely on the front end rather than to panic on the back end.”
Burroughs said if the economy rebounds and revenues increase, CBF can go back to spending at budget levels. Glasgow said any funding due partners and schools would be made up at the end of the year.
“We did not feel reserves were at a place where we could ignore this revenue shortfall,” Glasgow said. He added that if revenues are lower than the contingency plan anticipates, such as 78 percent instead of 80 percent of budget levels, reserves could be tapped to make up the difference.
In other business, the Coordinating Council approved a $16,150,000 budget for 2009-2010. The contingency plan continues into that budget year, however, meaning that unless revoked the new budget will start out with spending at 80 percent.
The proposed budget, to be presented for approval at the CBF General Assembly July 2-3 in Houston, is 2 percent lower than the $16.5 million originally budgeted for 2008-2009.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)