By Kara Witherow, Editor
In these trying and uncertain times, the South Georgia Conference Council on Finance and Administration and Board of Pensions and Health Benefits have worked hard to save South Georgia local churches money and ease the burden of apportionments.
Two ways they’ve been able to do that are by paying the pre-1982 pension obligations and by giving churches a rebate on March 2020 health insurance bills, in addition to the rebate already given by the Conference in April.
Pending approval by the 2021 Annual Conference session, the Conference will no longer collect apportionments for payment of pre-1982 pensions and benefits. The obligation for the funding of the pensions and the yearly increase of the pensions has been met.
“Retirees don’t need to be concerned because the funds have already been paid into Wespath. This increase has been pre-paid and is secure,” said Dr. Derek McAleer, Director of Administrative Services.
This would result in a decrease in apportionment askings over the next five to six years, from approximately $200 to $10,000 per year, depending on church size, he said.
The Conference had planned and budgeted to pay the pre-1982 retiree pension and benefits increase over the next five to six years, but instead paid the $1,200,000 in full. Doing so brings financial relief to local churches, Dr. McAleer said.
“Taking care of (it) now means that the burden isn’t left for the future to handle,” he said. “We think local churches will be appreciative of the relief.”
To be able to make the large payment, money was pooled from a variety of sources: investment income, money raised for pre-82 pensions but not yet applied, money from pension funds, and the apportionment from 2020.
Dr. Don Kea, a retired pastor who until August served on the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, says this is an important step.
“This is a huge, wonderful step for our conference to take for those people who have served prior to 1982,” Dr. Kea said. “It means that the unfunded liability for people who served prior to 1982 are now covered fully for their pensions. It increased the pension by a little more than $1,000 per year for people who had at least 20 years in, which made a big difference.”
Also, churches and pastors who paid their HealthFlex health insurance premiums in March 2020 have been issued a credit or a refund.
Because of a rebate given by Wespath, the United Methodist Pension agency, the South Georgia Conference Board of Pension was able to pass along the rebate to local churches and pastors.
In addition to these actions by our annual conference, Wespath also declared an “apportionment holiday” for the Comprehensive Protection Plan apportionment for 3 months last year. Our annual conference did not collect those funds from churches. “I’m grateful to Wespath for finding ways they could provide financial relief to our local church,” said Dr. McAleer. “It is so helpful when our general agencies keep an eye on the needs and circumstances of our local congregations. Altogether, with a variety of steps, we have provided some $925,000 of fiscal relief to our churches – on top of other budgeted reduction in 2020.”
These various credits will not impact the benefits received by any participants.