At the August board meeting we received end-of-fiscal year updates from Marty Zuckerman. The religious school over performed budget expectations, and the voluntary assessment was successful – our recorded cash loss on the year is only $4000 thanks to the work of our staff and the support of our congregants. The final set of amendments to the bylaws was approved by the board for distribution to the congregation. In preparation for a discussion at our September 22 congregational meeting, we reviewed the work of a subcommittee of Governance who are proposing changes to our mission and vision statements. We also received a report from the Security Task Force, and accepted their recommendation that Jim Liebeskind be authorized to provide security at events where it does not interfere with his other duties.
The board held a special meeting to review the final proposed changes from the bylaws committee in preparation for the September 22 town hall.
At the June meeting the board received a report on the state of security on our campus. Funds from the Family Foundation were reallocated to allow for improvements to our facilities, including adding panic buttons and additional cameras to the property. Additional possibilities, including armed security, will be discussed by the Security Taskforce and presented to the Board next month.
At the April meeting the board received updates on a number of issues. First of all, our, income and expenses were as expected. The voluntary assessment has reached a total $29,352 (59% of our goal) from 116 families. There has also been progress made on seven of the Top Ten priorities identified by the Finance Committee and the board to improved our financial standing, including beginning preparations for our High Holy Day Appeal, coordinating better with committees on spending, and appointing volunteers and board members to work on various income possibilities.
The board opened the meeting by sharing memories of Donald Diamond, treasured community member and philanthropist, who passed away that day. The Executive Administrator reported that the current total raised by the voluntary assessment is $20,440, which is 41% our goal, from 78 families. There was discussion of the form and content of a follow-up letter to be sent to those families that have not yet responded to the appeal, emphasizing that this is an assessment to cover a deficit, not an additional fundraiser.
The governance committee chair, Harriet Kronman, reported on the congregational attorney’s review of the bylaws changes. It was decided that the bylaws amendments will be postponed until the fall to allow the board to fully resolve all issues before presenting them to the congregation.
The main topic of the meeting was the proposed 2019-2020 budget. The treasurer reported that all expenses have been reviewed and further reductions would require eliminating personnel. Our financial difficulties stem from the income side of our ledger, not the expense side. To that end, the budget includes a 15% increase in dues billing. The finance committee analyzed the likely actual increase in receivables based on current dues levels to be 9%. The board accepted the budget as presented with permission for minor modifications.
The board received an update on the response to the voluntary assessment. As of the meeting, 28 congregants had donated, for a total of $7600. The Special Events Committee announced the upcoming Celebration of Israel, which will include a concert and a raffle, on April 6.
The Nominations Committee submitted its slate of nominees, including Elaine Jones for President, Gary Kippur as First Vice President, Bev Sandock as Vice President, and Mark Ross to finish out the current term as Treasurer.
The first draft of the 2019-2020 budget was presented and discussed. The Finance Committee and staff have worked hard to carefully analyze and budget expenses. They will be continuing their work this month. After considering the feedback from the town hall, the board directed the President to appoint a team to develop a plan for a transition to a voluntary commitment model for dues, in consultation with the Finance Committee.
The board convened a special meeting to finish discussing the work of the bylaws committee. Suggested changes to Articles VII through XXI were reviewed. The most detailed discussion was about changes to make the process by which people are nominated to the board more structured.
The January meeting was convened for three hours instead of the usual two in order to allow the board to consider several important matters. Firstly, the board voted to appoint Mark Ross as Treasurer for the remainder of the year. Aaron Fisher had to resign for personal reasons, and the board thanks him for his service. Marty Zuckerman has returned to his former position as chair of the Budget & Finance Committee.
Our spending remains largely on budget. Our income is higher than expected in several areas – our High Holy Day Appeal was very successful, and the enrollment in religious school is higher than expected – but we’re facing a shortfall of about $40,000 because of lower-than-expected dues income and donations.
The board reviewed ten initiatives proposed by the Finance Committee to improve our financial situation, which will be implemented over the coming months. One immediate action item was sending out a voluntary assessment to the membership to help bridge the projected shortfall. Various options were considered, and the board approved an assessment in the amount of $250 per member unit.
Finally, the board began a discussion of the changes to the bylaws proposed by the governance committee. Suggested revisions of Articles I through VII were discussed.
In order to give the bylaws the consideration required, a special meeting of the board was called for February 4 to complete the discussion.
At the December meeting the board approved a proposal to upgrade and convert the currently unused modular building. It will be divided into a youth lounge and additional storage space. This project will take nothing from the operating budget – it is fully supported by grants from the Family Foundation and the Jewish Community Foundation, as well as donations from congregants.
The remodeled building will provide a dedicated space for youth and teen programing, and the additional storage space will replace the two storage pods currently on campus, saving approximately $1000 a year.
There was discussion of our future fundraising efforts in light of the lack of support for the Razzmatazz event. The board thanks the committee of that event for their considerable work on the project, and for making the responsible decision to cancel the event when it was not meeting its goals.
Currently many of our expenses are running under budget, but with the fundraiser canceled and a projected shortfall in dues collection, we will need to raise more money this fiscal year. The finance committee was directed to prepare a list of possibilities for the board’s review.
At the November meeting, the board heard several important reports. The treasurer reported that the High Holy Day Appeal has raised more than $30,000, $10,000 above its budget. There is a possible shortfall in dues collection, which we will receive more clarity on in future reports. The board accepted with gratitude a donation from the anonymous Family Foundation in the amount of $93,000, $30,000 of which is earmarked support salaries, and $63,000 of which will be used for various maintenance and improvement projects not included in the operating budget.
The Naming and Dedicattion Committee presented its final report, detailing a review of the records of past capital campaigns and giving their recommendations for honoring our donors over the years. The board accepted their recommendations.
Elaine Jones presented the work of the Alternative Dues Taskforce. This task force has analyzed our own dues receipts over the years, contacted a number of other synagogues to discuss their dues structure, and studied national reports on various dues models. Their presentation informed the board that our median bill for this year is $1406 and our membership number is stable. They consider the Sustaining Model to be promising – it requires calculating the average amount per family needed to maintain operations, and asking for pledges from each member unit. Their research indicates this usually has a positive effect on both congregational relationships and overall revenues. The board asked the task force to present their full report to the congregation at a town hall on February 10, 2019.
The president informed the board that he was creating a security task force, chaired by Mo Riback and with Jim Liebeskind as staff liaison, to review all our procedures in light of events in Pittsburgh and present any recommended changes to the board.