Budgeting in a Time of High Uncertainty

feet at bottom of picture, standing on pavement marked with three arrows; left, straight, rightThings we don’t know about UU Asheville in the next two years:

  • What is the state of the congregation? How many members will we have once the pandemic settles down and we have a new minister?
  • What kind of ministry do we want? It’s possible to change our structure to include just one minister (this would be dictated by giving levels), or a lead minister with an assistant minister like we have now, or co-ministers.
  • What income can we work with? Remember that we get no funds from anyone but us. If there are a lot of us and we give 3-5% of our incomes, we can do a lot.  If there are fewer of us and we are less able/willing to give generously, that’s different.
  • Some of our staff members are at retirement age. How might that affect staff structure and accompanying costs?

Things we know:

  • Re-visioning and getting new ministerial leadership will re-energize the congregation. From other congregations, we note that a transition like this usually results in a significant uptick in giving and volunteerism.
  • We need a half-time A/V Coordinator now to make sure our video capabilities are dependably available and that some of the website and graphics work done by the Director of Administration is moved out of that job.
  • We are benefiting from the fact that our RE Coordinators are functioning at a level defined as “Religious Educators” by the UUA, but we are paying them at the lower “RE Coordinators” level.
  • The inflation rate for goods and services in the US is significantly higher than it has been for the past 40 years.
  • For the past nine years we have made sure that all employees received the SSN cost of living increase. This year that increase is 5.9%.
  • Years ago, the Board of Trustees declared that we would always pay our minimum wage employees (exclusively our childcare workers) at the Asheville Living Wage rate. This year that rate is $17.70/hour.
  • The UUA asks congregations to donate 6.5% of their expenses to support their work on our behalf. Historically we have managed 4%.

If you were paying attention to that last list, you will have figured out that the budget pressures are HUGE this year.  I hinted in my January blog that this was going to be a rough year and that deficit spending could be on the table.  If we choose to pay for all the items in the “things we know” list, we will create a budget deficit of a little less than $90,000 if early returns from our Annual Giving Drive are any indication of our income for 22-23.

Right now, as the Executive, Finance Advisory Committee, and Board of Trustees wrestle with the 2022-23 budget, they are faced with some tough decisions.  Nearly all decisions are made with “too little” information, but as you can imagine, making budget decisions in an environment where expenses are going up, income is not meeting it, and future income and expenses are hidden in a fog of uncertainty is crazy-making.

Here are some of our choices:

  • Create a balanced budget right now! Because it looks like our income will not be much higher than it was last year, that would mean not doing any of the things listed in the “things we know” list: no new A/V position, no raises for the RE Coordinators, no cost-of-living increases, maybe a decrease instead of an increase in UUA giving. And even then, other cuts might need to be made.
  • Create a balanced budget right now! Since personnel costs are always our largest expense area, we could lose staff members as we have had to do in the past.
  • Deficit spend. We have about $203,000 in our Contingency Fund.  Let’s try to raise more money but then use the Contingency Fund this year and next year to tide us over until we have less uncertainty and can make smarter long-term decisions.
  • Deficit spend, but choose which of the things in the “things we know” list we can drop for now so the deficit isn’t quite so large.

Thank your congregational leaders for this work.  It is NOT for the faint of heart.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration





The Haunting Church, 4 Mondays, April 11-May 2, 7-8:30, Zoom

If you are struggling with the concept of faith, theology, worship, and other religious words, I invite you to consider attending next month’s Adult Faith Development Program “The Haunting Church: Owning Your Religious Past” which invites participants to reflect on their religious journey. What do you leave behind? What do you bring to the present? What do you redefine?  Contact Rev. Claudia Jiménez to register.



Justice Ministry Film: Meltdown in Dixie, Friday, April 8, 7pm, Zoom

This is a documentary film about BBQ, ice cream and the Confederate flag.

The Confederate flag has flown in the corner of an Orangeburg, SC parking lot since 2000, when former ice cream shop owner Maurice Bessinger raised the flag in protest over it coming down from the SC State House dome. Bessinger, a self-avowed segregationist, deeded the plot of land where the flagpole stood to the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to ensure the flag continued to fly in Orangeburg long after his death.

In the wake of the 2015 Charleston Massacre, new creamery owner Tommy Daras, who once considered the flag an acceptable sign of a rebel, has a change of heart and commits to doing anything possible to get it down. But “Keeper of the Flag” Buzz Braxton and the Sons of Confederate Vets refuse. With Confederate symbols coming down around the country, can Tommy get the flag down in Orangeburg?

Send a request for the ZOOM link to Charlie Wussow at mnpopi@icloud.com by Wednesday, April 6th.  There will be a discussion after the screening of the film.

Official Trailer                 https://www.meltdownindixie.com              runtime: 54 minutes

8th Principle Event with Paula Cole Jones, Sunday, April 3, 8pm, Zoom

UU Justice NC is teaming up with DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries) to offer a virtual event for North Carolina UUs interested in learning more about the 8th Principle. We’ll have the incredible opportunity to hear directly from the co-author of the 8th Principle, Paula Cole Jones. We’ll also learn more about the process of adopting the 8th Principle from two lay-leader panelists who have led this work in their own congregations.

Register Here!

6:30 Vespers: Awakening & 7:00 PM Program: Theme Talk- Experiencing Awakening

Vespers  6:30 PM: Join Anna Martin in exploring our April theme of “Awakening” with poems, singing, sharing, and Lea Morris’ story of The Empty Cup.

Program 7 PM:  Welcome to Awakening – Our program will explore Awakening, the theme for April.  Does awakening arise slowly from experience, or is it more like an epiphany that hits us like a ton of bricks?  Are awakenings more apt to happen when you are younger or older?  What is your experience of awakening?  Facilitator: Jim Steffe


Next week: April 13

Vespers Wed April 13 at 6:30 PM: “The God of Our Understanding”

Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was highly skeptical of the existence of a personal God. To help make AA accessible to persons of all beliefs (or none), he wrote the 12-step program with the suggestion that we “turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand [God].” 

As Unitarian Universalists who have many different beliefs (or none) regarding the existence of a higher power, who or what is the ultimate guiding principle, force or being in our lives? What practices do we have to help us cultivate or enlarge the existence of this guiding principle, force, or being in our daily lives? How can our practices help heal our hurting hearts and world? 

Rev. Terry Davis invites us to reflect upon these questions and then share our thoughts and feelings.


Program Wed April 13 at 7 PM: Liberation Conversations. Join us for an update on the final congregational assessment report that will be shared at the end of the month. We will also discuss next steps and brainstorm ways to welcome all levels of experience into the work of collective liberation/anti-racism.   Facilitator: Rev. Claudia