Change in Assessment Canon

At its 194th Convention (2009), the Diocese passed a new assessment canon. The canon was the culmination of over three years’ work done by members of the Assessment Review and Finance Committees. Bishop Hollingsworth initiated a study of our assessment canon and those of other dioceses back in 2007, after witnessing proposals to change the canon at several Diocesan conventions. The canon which was replaced had been in effect since 1998.

After considering basing the new system on a look back period, which is used by many other dioceses, the Review Committee settled on a system based on operating expenses rather than operating income. This change should simplify not only the monthly reporting process, but annual reconciliation with parochial report data. The Committee also retained the reporting of current period data, which is perceived to be fair and equitable, as it moves with changes in a parish’s financial status. The new canon is designed to provide clarity and transparency on how the assessment system works, so that new and current treasurers and rectors can get up to speed on it more quickly and easily.

The new canon exempts two types of expenses from assessment: outreach expenses paid from the operating budget, and the assessment expense itself. Parishes considered paying assessment on the assessment expense unfair, and created an undue burden, especially for those parishes relying on investment income to address budget shortfalls. Parishes who contribute funds to outreach ministries are now on a level playing field with those who run outreach programs within their parishes, at least with respect to treatment under the assessment canon. Both types of outreach expenditures are now exempt from assessment. Hopefully, this change will provide incentive to all parishes to participate in outreach activities. Aid from the Diocese to parishes for continuing education, mission enhancement, and operations will not be assessed, as in the prior canon.

The current reporting system was essentially unchanged, with the exception of eliminating the annual reconciliation form. Parishes will continue to prepare an annual estimate of their assessment, due every February 20th, and a monthly report of operating expenses and assessment, due by the 20th of every month. Assessment rates were adjusted upward slightly to keep the change revenue neutral for the Diocese. The impact on any individual parish was designed to be in the range of $1,000-$1,500, in either direction as a result of the canon. Parishes which experience significant changes in their budgets will probably experience a greater impact.