At the May meeting, the board focused on the various impacts the coronavirus is having on the synagogue. We received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, which is part of the federal COVID relief package. These funds are to be used for payroll and utilities, and help bridge the cash flow problems that we have every spring, made worse by the pandemic. The Board discussed and approved renting our school buildings to the JCC’s Taglit program for young adults with disabilities over the summer. This arrangement will allow the J to more effectively social distance the participants in their various programs. The President is appointing a COVID-19 Task Force of experts to help guide our decision-making as this situation continues.
The Board met via Zoom again in April to receive updates in a variety of areas. The pandemic has rendered our financial situation unpredictable. We have applied for relief under the Paycheck Protection Program, but we have not received any funds yet. Mark Ross is continuing to work to expedite the process.
The transition to online religious and Hebrew School has been quite successful, with a high attendance rate. Rina invited the board to attend the end-of-year assembly on May 3. She is also working with a joint committee to prepare for the new, combined religious school this fall.
The board met via Zoom in March due to COVID-19 precautions. The board first reviewed the newly negotiated contracts for the Rabbi and the Cantor, and approved them in executive session. We received reports on the effects of COVID on our community and the measures being taken to mitigate the spread while continuing to serve our congregants in various ways. The proposed 2020-2021 budget was discussed. The Finance Committee projects a shortfall of $82,000 next year, and the board discussed the sources of that deficit and possible ways to remedy them. The budget was approved as presented.
At the February meeting the board reviewed our fundraising efforts, which in combination with the cost-saving change to paperless communication, lead to a break-even projection on the fiscal year. The slate for next year’s board was read into the record. The board got a presentation from Rina Liebeskind and Dr. Abby Limmer, Director of Education at Temple Emanu-El, on plans to merge our religious schools. The board voted to go forward with combining our schools in the fall regardless of the status of the congregational merger. We formally endorsed the passage of the MOU, and received updates on next steps, including applying for grant funds and the process for hiring lawyers and a consultant to assist with the process.
The board discussed the final wording of the Memorandum of Understanding with Temple Emanu-El, and approved it for congregational vote with two abstentions.
The board reviewed version 6 of the proposed Memorandum of Understanding with Temple Emanu-El. There was extensive discussion of the language of the document, and a number of changes were made. The document was returned to Emanu-El as version 7.
The board received updates on a number of initiatives, including the Passport to Paradise raffle, a dinner for major donors, and a new merchandise shop through CafePress. The annual vote on parsonage, the amount of clergy compensation that is designated as a housing allowance for tax reasons, was held. The board spent significant time in executive session discussing both the clergy contract process (both clergy are due for contract renewals this year) and a draft of a proposed Memorandum of Understanding regarding a potential merger with Temple Emanu-El.
Most of the November meeting was devoted to financial matters. We recently received a generous gift from the anonymous Family Foundation, which the Board accepted with thanks. With the support of the Foundation, our current economic projections are more promising. The Board discussed several upcoming fundraising efforts, including an exciting raffle that will be announced to congregants soon and is expected to be a major income generator.
The other main topic of discussion was the continuing process of discussion with Temple Emanu-El. The town hall presentations by the taskforces have thus far been successful, and there will be one more meeting (with two presentations) on 12/8/19. Members of the Ambassadors group have begun drafting a Memorandum of Understanding between the two congregations, based on the work of the taskforces and the discussion at the various congregational meetings. The MOU will be brought to both Board for approval in December, before being presented to the congregational memberships for a vote in January.
At the October meeting the board received important updates about the financial status of the Congregation. We did not meet our first financial trigger of 350 members renewed by September 30, so the board divided up phone calls to those families yet to renew. The High Holy Day appeal is also coming in below budget. There was discussion of ways to reach that goal. The rest of the meeting was spent in executive session discussing possibilities for our congregational future.
At the September meeting the board focused on planning for the future. At the recommendation of the Finance Committee, the board adopted three financial “triggers” throughout the fiscal year to ensure we are proactively monitoring our status and avoid a spring budget crunch. The board endorsed the president’s decision to appoint an independent committee to run the January merger vote. This committee will design a transparent, confidential, and unbiased process. The joint taskforces are continuing their work, and will be presenting their findings to both congregations in November and December. These taskforces and the feedback from the congregations will inform the Memorandum of Understanding that will be voted on in January.