Board Buzz: Finance Update

by Ryam Hill, Treasurer

Looking back since my last update in the Beacon a year ago, so much has happened. The major work has been on updating our accounting system and bringing our financial processes into best practices. This impacted us from top to bottom and wasn’t a simple transition for staff and many groups. It’s never easy to change, but with church finances, we really need to use a system that helps us track our money well and to be compliant with all the laws involved in our status as a non-profit, religious organization.

Aside from having a gracious volunteer, retired CPA Laura Rivendell to guide us through all these steps, we have also made good use of the Department of Revenue (DOR) regulations and ask line, specific tips from University Unitarian’s DFO who has been through recent audits, and professional advice from our tax accountants. With this information and after many meetings with the various groups that handle money at the church, we are now able to move forward with confidence that the audit we will need when our new minister is called will be easier and less expensive due to all this work.

Jason Puracal, our DFO, managed this transformation admirably and spent much time educating members on what and why regarding church finances and government regulations, as did other staff, volunteers, and Board members. Again, it is hard to change and some of the legalities are not to our liking, but I feel confident that we explored all options with the specific intent to make things work for the various teams at the church. Facing the facts can be difficult, but with creativity and good spirits, we can always find a work around or new way to accomplish our goals.

This process is ongoing. The Finance Team is still working through answering questions for every specific scenario of the programming and ministry that occurs at East Shore. Unfortunately, the tax code is written fairly generally, and it takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to nail down a concrete answer from the CPAs and DOR. The Finance Team plans to write a complete report of its investigative findings once all the answers are received from the CPAs and DOR, and will make this information available to the Board and Congregation to help all in our community understand the tax implications of activities on our campus. The Finance Team appreciates your patience, especially given that we are also covering the responsibilities of the Bookkeeper position until a qualified replacement can be hired (expected late November).
On another topic, I wanted to repeat some info presented earlier this summer. The Board approved a process for feedback from members to staff. Of course, members should first talk to any staff directly. The next step is to speak to their supervisor if the issue wasn’t resolved, and finally to the Board if needed. The Board supervises the Staff Leadership Team (SLT).

The Personnel Committee can be involved at any step in this and will help members complete a feedback form, talk to staff, supervisors, or the Board. The Personnel Committee members will be neutral in this and simply assist with the steps of the process. For more specific information, please see these links:
http://esuc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/CongreganttoStaffFeedbackProcessfrontoffice-1.pdf
http://esuc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/StaffFeedbackForm.pdf

Finally, thanks to all the groups who have completed their charters. These documents will help with transparency and increasing awareness about all the activities at East Shore. Providing this basic information is a helpful way to be welcoming for all the groups that are looking for or accepting new members. It will also clarify when there is any confusion about a group’s focus or how decisions are made. All the charters will eventually be reviewed by the Policy and Governance Standing Committee, approved by the Board, and then will become part of East Shore’s policies. They will also be reviewed and updated each year to stay current.