Finance leaders report 'good year' with 2017 budget surplus

Finance leaders report 'good year' with 2017 budget surplus

Holston Conference's main offices are based in Alcoa, Tennessee.

Updated on March 23 at 1:50 p.m.

ALCOA, Tenn. (March 22, 2018) -- Holston Conference finished the 2017 budget year with a $178,517 surplus, ending a streak of deficits in recent years and giving leaders hope for the organization's financial future.

“We had a good year,” said the Rev. Jeff Lambert, president of the Council on Finance and Administration (CFA). “Our 2019 budget is set at the 2017 income level.  We believe this approach will help us maintain a balanced budget.”

The surplus was achieved largely with the mid-year elimination of three district superintendents’ salaries and benefits totaling $177,775, said Rick Cherry, treasurer.

In May 2017, Bishop Dindy Taylor announced that “limited financial resources” had resulted in a decision to reduce Holston’s district superintendents from 12 to nine – effective almost immediately, on July 1.

The 2017 budget was approved by the Holston Annual Conference at $9.43 million and then reduced by Bishop Taylor’s executive team in April 2017 to $9.02 million, Cherry said.

Income received by local churches in 2017 totaled $9.25 million, or 90 percent of the calculated tithe. If all 874 churches in the Holston Conference had paid 100 percent of their calculated tithe, 2017 income would have totaled $10.29 million, Cherry said.

Holston Conference depends on "tithes" from local churches for income. Tithes are calculated at 10 percent of each church's "undesignated" income.

Based on 2017 income, the CFA will propose a 2019 budget of $9.25 million to the Annual Conference when it meets June 10-13 in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, Cherry said.

“The CFA has cited a desire to spend or budget no more than what was collected in the previous year,” he said. “We feel comfortable with that figure.”

The Holston Conference is in the midst of a $9.07 million approved budget for 2018.



  • 589 of 832 tithing churches (71 percent) paid 95 percent or more of their 2017 tithes.

  • 43 churches (not including 25 preaching stations) paid $0 of their 2017 tithes, compared to 34 in 2016. The total amount uncollected from the 43 churches was $109,511.

  • 95 percent of Holston's apportionment to the denomination was paid in 2017. These "general church" apportionments pay for The United Methodist Church's global mission outreach; ministerial education; bishop salaries, travel and pensions; black college support; Africa University support; and administration.

  • In 2016, Holston Conference paid 75 percent of its "general church" apportionment. The 2019 proposed budget provides for 100 percent payment of Holston’s apportionment to the UMC.

  • The 2017 budget surplus follows a string of deficits: $30,422 in 2016; $893,060 in 2015; $919,349 in 2014. The CFA has since decreased Holston’s budget requests -- from $10.2 million in 2014 and $10.46 in 2015 -- to $9.04 million in 2018 and $9.25 million in 2019.

  • Holston churches reported a total $26.42 million in “designated income” in 2017, a decrease from $26.62 million in 2016. Between 2010 and 2015, total designated income reported by Holston churches increased 32 percent. Churches do not have pay a tithe on designated income.

  • Designated income includes gifts to local churches tagged for tuition, pass-through gifts to unrelated organizations such as UMCOR or 5th Sunday offerings, endowment gifts, and donor-designated or capital-related gifts.

  • Holston Conference has $12.49 million invested in Holston Conference Foundation funds, an increase from $11.8 million last year.

  • Holston Conference has $33.99 million invested with Wespath Benefits and Investments, designated for pension and health liabilities. In 2017, the total invested was $33.28 million; in 2016, $36.3 million.

  • The balance on a $1.25 million "line of credit" for Hiwassee College (at 1 percent accumulated interest) is $1.03 million. The five-year "line of credit" is due in full by Dec. 31, 2019.

  • Nineteen staff members currently work on-site at the Alcoa Conference Center; an additional 24 staff are “deployed” (working away from Alcoa), including district superintendents.

  • The 2019 budget includes a new line item and $317,687 for “emerging ministries,” designated for the Holston Conference Strategy Team’s work to direct ministry toward the denomination's Four Areas of Focus.

The proposed 2019 budget will be published in the "Book of Reports," available in May at


Contact Annette Spence at


Coming next week:
2017 benevolence giving report


See also:
Budget cuts likely as Holston leaders adjust for shortfall (The Call, 4/19/17)

$9.4 million budget proposed for 2017 (The Call, 5/30/16)

Holston collects 91 percent tithes in 2014 (The Call, 2/16/15)


UMC budget

UMC 2016 annual report





Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.