West tightens belt to stretch funds

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by Robert Docter – 

Facing serious deficits and declining income, Commissioner Bill Luttrell, territorial commander, announced significant finance policy changes and program modifications as the territory entered a period of financial belt-tightening.

“Stewardship of God’s resources is an important responsibility of every Salvationist in the territory. God has miraculously enabled the Army to be mission effective in days past. We must respond to his guidance and direction during these challenging days to strengthen our financial base and move the mission forward at the grass roots level,” Luttrell stated.

Divisional commanders around the territory report that the leaner focus has been replicated in divisional centers throughout the territory as a number of program and finance policy changes have been implemented. Every effort possible has been made to protect employees and maintain essential services to those in need.

Individual families have recognized a rise in costs required simply to maintain the operation of the family unit; Luttrell notes the identical situation confronting the Army: “The cost for the Army to undertake activities to accomplish its mission in the territory has increased dramatically in the past decade. Energy cost, insurance, building upkeep and repairs and transportation are among the increases that we all experience,” Luttrell said.

He noted that employees and officers throughout the territory have done magnificent jobs in struggling to maintain services and programs during this period, but that we have finally reached the point of being required to develop some different strategies to maintain our mission focus.

Lt Colonel Kurt Burger, territorial business secretary, charged with the responsibility to develop these strategies, noted that the problem is not new. He identified a number of important changes in policy and practice that have occurred during the period. Each of these examples has resulted in considerable cost reductions.

He noted the centralization of the Silvercrest residences that have reduced administrative costs and increased rentals at local sites; the consolidation of accounting data to the territorial center have resulted in reduced fees; and the transition of Trade Department services to an internet mail-order business as examples of important decisions that have resulted in major savings. A number of new projects designed to bring expenses in line with revenue are being pursued, he said.

So while we feel the “pinch” now, the problem has been growing over the past several years. In examining causes, Burger noted that during the last decade or so we have attempted to expand our mission commitments and have increased corps and social programs in large number. At the same time, it has become evident that costs are increasing and that community needs and commensurate expansion of services of local Army units make it almost impossible for these units to be entirely self-supporting. This has placed heavier burdens on divisions and on the territory as a whole.

Additionally, Burger noted the increasing competition for the charity dollar even though “we have some of the strongest development people working with us who have excellent coverage and highly professional techniques, the funds are more difficult to raise,” he said.

Cutting back on any program is painful, Burger said, but as we try to tighten our focus on specific factors pertaining to our mission we will discover improved ways of achieving our stewardship responsibilities.

Crestmont BA program cut

Among the cuts announced at the territorial level has been the termination of the Crestmont College bachelors degree program effective December 22 as well as the decision to postpone the capital campaign that had intended to support the expansion of programs at the College.

Making it clear that this decision does not represent a change in the Army’s commitment to continuing education for its officers, those involved will be directed to other colleges or on-line programs to enable completion of their degree.

Luttrell has named three task forces to examine the entire matter and recommend policies designed to achieve a long-term remedy of the total financial problem. One of the task forces is assigned responsibility to develop a model of continuing education for officers. The other two task forces involve an examination and reorganization of existing programs on the Crestmont campus, apart from SFOT, and the development of a leaner plan for officer training. These task forces are required to report findings and recommendations to the chief secretary within 60 days.

Lt. Colonel Raymond Peacock, president of Crestmont College, will be reassigned at the end of this quarter to his post of Leadership Development for the territory.

Divisional responses

While each division is approaching this financial squeeze in different ways, some common elements seem to appear. Often this involves some kind of hiring freeze with position cutbacks occurring through attrition either with a blanket policy of no replacements or replacements considered on a case-by-case basis after a careful evaluation of the need for the position. Other approaches relate to a redesign of income strategies in relation to more focused program goals.

One division intends to launch a new marketing campaign in the spring and has reorganized both program and development departments to afford greater coordination of gift development. This division is seeking avoid a “retreat mode” and focus only on the positive. Several are involving staff members to participate in the process by providing ideas to accomplish specific outcomes. Salary rates are examined. Some have cut programs that have run into consistent deficits. Where layoffs have occurred, there has been a consistent effort to assist employees find new positions within fields of their expertise. Conference attendance has been vulnerable including, even, the number of officers’ councils planned.

Some plus signs

“Very importantly, and most beneficially,” Burger said, “we have an increased awareness and acknowledgement of the issues facing us. This will allow us to take constructive measures to continue to move us forward.” He noted that corps soldiers are tithing more, and that in some areas this is up a significant amount. He also noted that endowments have increased in support of specific programs.

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