Yes, it’s budget time again. We don’t like to talk about money much but, I’m the treasurer. It’s my job to watch the money and I have to talk about it. I’m going to talk A LOT about it in this column. So, here’s the lowdown.

The board has approved a target budget this year totaling about $422,000 which will require $379,000 in pledges to meet. As we tried to do last year, we hope to be able to raise our staff’s compensation to the fair wage levels recommended by the UUA for a congregation of our size at our area’s cost-of-living level. Last year’s pledge total was $345,000 so we are looking for about a 10% increase in pledges over what was pledged last year.

There are a few other minor thrusts in the proposed budget (including boosting the administrator’s hours from 25 to 30 per week) but you will hear about them from the Stewardship Committee (see the website here). The biggest increase in the proposed budget, by far, is bringing our minister, DLFD and administrator compensation up to recommended levels. Payroll expenses are overwhelmingly the largest part of our budget. In fact, if we add payroll, our mortgage payments, utilities, routine building maintenance, and other administrative costs – things we have no choice but to pay – this represents 88% of our budget. Other items we are loath to cut, including our religious education program, our UUA dues, landscaping, mowing and snow removal make up another 7%. Everything else, all the other programs we choose to fund, now makes up less than 5% of our budget. You can see that when we fail to make our pledge goal, we have little choice other than to back off on staff salaries.

So, we’re trying again to pay our people justly. Inflation makes that goal a moving target. Last year our pledge target was $376,000. We didn’t get there and the full increase in pay didn’t happen. Why is raising the pledge total so difficult? One thought is that the early-bird pledging we have been doing has actually encouraged a large number of us to simply pledge the same as the previous year without fully understanding what the need is. Perhaps, because we were late in publishing a pledge goal last year, many folks had pledged even before the goal had been announced. In any event, our income has not kept pace with the rapidly rising cost of doing business over the last couple of years.

We can do better! We have done it in the past. During the stewardship pledge drive to fund the 2021-2022 fiscal year, our pledges increased 9.3%. The pledge total that year was $347,800 and we actually exceeded our goal by $2800. Note that last year’s pledge total of $345,000 was the same amount as that year’s goal. Our pledge total has actually gone down over the last two years!

Our minister, DLFD, and administrator do a fantastic job for us. Each are working as hard as they can and they deserve to be paid fairly. They work for you and me and we are the ones who need to pay them. I’ve seen how generous our congregation has been in the past. This year, we need everyone to know what our pledges are needed for – our hardworking staff. We need everyone to think about how much they can raise their pledge. We all know that there are those among us who already give as much as they can and can’t raise their pledge by 10%. If you are one of the ones who can easily raise by more than 10%, please do. Maybe it’s not so easy but, think about what you can do. Please just don’t default to the same pledge as last year. That’s actually going backwards. Please think about what these people do for you. I know that together we can finally reach our goal of fair compensation for them.

This year, we will have a special pledging event on Sunday, March 17th. I encourage you to give serious thought to coming to that party prepared to hand in your generous pledge. It will make you feel good and our staff feel valued.

Wayne Neu, UUC Treasurer