Accessibility Building Project Updates

Congregational Meeting Voter's Guide

First Congregational Society, Unitarian

November 20, 2016 Special Meeting Voter Guide

Warrant Articles:

  1. Moderator
  2. New Members
  3. Service Project Cell Tower funds
  4. Operating Reserves
  5. Accessibility Building Project Treasurer
  6. Elizabeth Fisk Endowment Funds

Introduction

The Standing Committee is pleased to provide the congregation this update on the Accessibility Building Project (ABP), also referred to previously as the Accessibility Capital Campaign (ACC). This special meeting has been called to get approval from the congregation on several steps that would allow the ABP to progress towards construction in the summer of 2017. Disapproval of these steps would lead to a multi-year fundraising timeline prior to construction. 

The Standing Committee (SC) is excited to report that we have signed contracts with the architectural and fundraising firms. The total fees for both these providers will be split and payments made on a monthly basis. We have funds for November and December, thanks to early ABP donations. While other donations come in, and while we do fundraising work to obtain more money, we need to get income lined up for work happening in January and beyond. Unallocated money in the Service Project Cell Tower and in the Operating Reserves (from running under-budget in previous fiscal years), give a total of $35,000. There is also a fund within our endowment that is earmarked for capital expenditures. All this money can be transferred over, providing a seed for the ABP, without any impact to the operating budget.

In considering the level of effort required to anticipate, track, and pay expenses for the building project, we believe it is beyond what our volunteer treasurer can handle, even with assistance. With that in mind, we recommend authorizing the chairs of the Accessibility Building Project Finance team, Dave Kaffine and Doug Snow, to take on treasurer duties for the ABP.

The Standing Committee has worked with the ABP Teams and Project Manager, Tom Coffey, to formulate these plans. We are confident that this marks the best path forward for this project. A detailed summary of the project up to this point is provided at the end, for your reference. Please read over this document, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask any of us.

Signed,

Sarah Manning,
For the Standing Committee:
John Schneider, Carrie Little, Ruth Whalen Crockett, Heather Bigler, Jim Curley, Leslie Yauckoes, Rebecca Gore (Treasurer), Edith Murphy (Clerk)

 

Detailed Notes on Each Article:

I - Moderator:

The moderator can be anyone capable of guiding the congregation through discussion and decision making using Robert’s Rules of Order. To ensure that such a person exists, the Standing committee identifies a candidate who is comfortable speaking to the congregation and is as neutral as possible on the warrant items, and prepares the candidate with Robert’s Rules, the warrant, and a list of people who can speak to items on the warrant. Additional candidates can also be nominated.

2 - New Members:

The bylaws state that voting at a congregational meeting is limited to members. Members are people who have signed the membership book, been introduced to the Society by vote, and made a pledge. To fully include new members, it is our tradition to vote in new members at the beginning of each voting meeting.

3 Service Project Cell Tower funds

Service Project Cell Tower funds come from the lease of our steeple for the use of a T-Mobile cell tower. The money comes in on a monthly basis, and it is split between this fund and the Long Range Planning fund. Over the past fiscal year(s), the Service Project Cell Tower fund has been intentionally reserved for service projects and community outreach. During the last budget planning cycle, much of the income anticipated for the next year and funds accumulated over prior years was left unallocated. The unallocated amount is $13,000. A yes vote here would allow the unallocated portion of the Service Project Cell Tower funds, either already paid or anticipated for this year, to be used for the ABP.

4 Operating Reserves

Operating Reserves are added to when our yearly operating income exceeds our expenses as it did last year. The operating reserves provide a cash flow buffer for regular operating expenses, and the recommendation of the SC and Finance Sub-Committee is to keep the operating reserves funded at two months of expenses. Withdrawing $22,000 from the operating reserves leaves the recommended twomonths of expenses available for the general operating budget.

5 ABP Treasurer

The Treasurer of First Parish is a big position. As a congregation, we acknowledged that when we decided to officially create an Assistant Treasurer position. The ABP will require the equivalent of Collector and Treasurer positions, keeping track of the money coming in, and keeping an eye on the money going out, as well as the overall project budget. SC feels that the new tasks are too much to ask our existing Collector and Treasurer to take on. Dave Kaffine, who has been Treasurer for First Parish in the past, and Doug Snow, who has been an Auditor here at First Parish and has a background in capital project planning, have both stepped up to lead the financial aspect of the ABP. It would make the processes of record-keeping and bill-paying more efficient if Doug and Dave had the authority to access the ABP accounts and pay approved construction expenses. To do this, they would need to be signatories on the account. It has been our practice at First Parish to vote in people for this sort of responsible position. This particular temporary position is not explicitly described in the by-laws but is a logical extension of them, and the practice of having the congregation vote on such positions is consistent with our normal practices and a good fiscal choice.

6 EF Endowment Funds

The Elizabeth Fisk Graham Fund in our endowment is earmarked for capital expenditures. The current value of the fund is $46,105.58. The SC, after discussion with the Board of Investment, judges that it is in line with the noted purpose of the fund for it to be transferred from the endowment to be used by the ABP. All this money can be transferred over, providing a seed for the ABP, without any impact to this year’s operating budget. While any withdrawal from endowment reduces the interest, dividend, and appreciation of the endowment, the proposed transfer is close to the amount annually approved for the operating budget, and is relatively small compared to the total value of the endowment which is around $1.1 million. According to the Society By-Laws, a withdrawal from our endowment, beyond the amount annually transferred to the operating budget, requires ⅔ of the voting members at two congregational votes that take place at least 30 days apart. This is the first vote; the second is anticipated for the Annual meeting in June or closer to the start of construction.

Context / History / Details

Back in a special congregational meeting on November 8, 2015, this congregation voted to raise $500,000 in a Capital Campaign to make our building more accessible. Since then we have been involved in clarifying the most important features to increase accessibility while retaining the current functionality of the church and keeping to the budgeted cost. After several iterations, the plan:

  • incorporates the mandated elevator
  • has the much-desired bathrooms on the second floor
  • adds a ramp between the two levels of our lower story
  • makes a main entrance accessed by a ramp outside the building
  • rearranges the offices on the first floor so that Cindy’s office will be right next to the main entrance.

Those drawings are posted on the church website at http://www.uuchelmsford.org/nextSteps/AccessabilityPlansJune16.pdf

.We are working towards a goal of starting and completing construction in the summer of 2017. This is an ambitious, fast moving plan that challenges all of us to communicate well and maintain speed on this process.

The SC has now signed a $32,000 contract with Architectural Consulting Services, LLC for Jay Mason to develop the permit-ready, biddable construction documents for that timeline. The SC has also signed a $16,500 contract for Cornerstone Fundraising to design and execute a capital campaign. Even without their professional help, thus far we have received contributions totaling slightly more than $30,000 dollars. This is a good start and we are counting on pledges to continue to come in. However, we expect that some of the pledges will come in over a period of a few years. That means that some money will come in after we finish construction. We anticipate obtaining a bridge loan of some sort to cover that gap. The finance team is working on a cash flow plan and recommendations for construction financing. Our very early estimates suggest that with the income from fundraising and seed money from the Society, we will be able to pay initial project expenses as money comes in, and put off obtaining that a bridge loan until around the time construction starts.

Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824

978-256-5133