Written by W. Evan Golder
Costs for restructure of the UCC's national setting will be about $2.4 million over estimates, although all but about $1 million of that has been covered. The numbers were released to the UCC's Executive Council at its March 17 meeting in Cleveland.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC General Minister and President, explained that most of the overage occurred because of attention paid to justice and fairness around staff severance issues and humane working space in the national offices in Cleveland.
Speaking in a pastoral voice and in measured tones, Thomas took 45 minutes to walk the council through the restructure budget. Originally estimated at $4,750,000, final totals will be closer to $7,168,041.
The bulk of this expense, nearly $3.5 million, can be attributed to the costs of severance, Thomas explained. Of the approximately 250 national staff members, 40 were expected to claim severance pay and not continue into the new structure. Instead, 90 employees exercised that option.
The second highest expense, more than $1.9 million, was for remodeling much of the building.
This included completely redesigning the second floor, which has been open, empty space, and rewiring the whole building for state-of-the-art information systems. Until now, computer systems on the top three floors have been functioning ineffectively using existing telephone wiring.
Although definite plans are not yet finalized, Thomas said more than half of the deficit would be erased through a variety of ways. These include extending the mortgage on the building at 700 Prospect Ave. in downtown Cleveland, utilizing the proceeds from selling some insurance stock, capturing unexpended dollars from 2000 and limiting spending in 2001 and 2002, and accepting cash from the successor agencies of the former United Church Boards for Homeland and World Ministries to increase their shares of equity in the ownership of the UCC building.
Even with these efforts, he said, the remaining deficit will still exceed $1 million.
Reaction from Council members, who include clergy and laity from across the UCC, was swift and supportive.
First to rise was the Rev. John Krueger, Kansas-Oklahoma Conference Minister, who cited his experience on the committee that made the decision in 1989 to relocate the UCC's national offices from New York City to Cleveland.
"We may have erred in two categories," he said, "in trying to be fair to those employees who serve us well in our various ministries, whether they chose to move or to remain in New York, and in trying to provide humane working space in the new building. And we erred by about the same amount, $1 million."
"I think we have nothing to apologize for," he added, "when by our honest intentions to do right by our people we sustain this kind of deficit."
His sentiment was echoed by Linda Jaramillo, a member of Ainsworth UCC in Portland, Ore., and Assistant Moderator of General Synod 23. "We never said that we were restructuring to save money," she reminded the group.
"Restructure really was about mission and call. And our human resources are our most valuable resources in that effort," added Jaramillo.
Thomas said that more details would be available in the General Synod advance materials to be sent to delegates, including the 76 Executive Council members, prior to the biennial meeting July 13-17 in Kansas City, Mo.
The Executive Council meets next in Kansas City, immediately before General Synod.
The Rev. W. Evan Golder is editor of the national edition of United Church News.