2020 Yearbook Fifth Month 2020 Called Interim Meeting Virtual Gathering in Time of Pandemic
I2020-01 Opening. Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Interim Meeting held an online session on 5/16/2020 at the call of the Clerk of Interim Meeting, having canceled our scheduled 3/21/2020 meeting at the direction of the Clerk of Interim Meeting. The Clerk is convinced that the Spirit will be with us today, understanding that we are in a time of transition. We will indicate approval today by silence, even as we are unmuted. We are all slightly distracted; we are all trying to do our best; we are all our pandemic selves.
We heard selections from our declaration as an anti-racist faith community, including its queries. We heard a sense that when we are aware of the problems caused by racism we can keep an eye out for those problems.
I2020-02 Supervisory Committee report. Adrian Bishop (Baltimore, Stony Run) and Ramona Buck (Patapsco), Supervisory Committee Co-Clerks, reported; documents provided are attached. The report covers discernments of the Committee acting for Interim Meeting. Adrian noted that a preamble was added to our Youth Safety Policy; it was not otherwise changed.
We heard a question about budgeting for strategic planning; the Clerk indicated that any spending on strategic planning would not occur until our next budget year.
We ACCEPTED Supervisory Committee’s report. The Clerk deferred until our next meeting our consideration of and action on the Committee’s strategic planning initiative proposal.
We APPROVED this: on this first and only reading, we named Guli Fager (Baltimore, Stony Run) to Supervisory Committee, beginning immediately and serving through 2021. Rebecca noted that Guli’s approved service will, given that it is more than one year of a two-year term, be counted as a full term.
We ACCEPTED the resignation of Joshua Riley (Hopewell Centre) from Supervisory Committee, with thanks for Joshua’s service.
I2020-04 General Secretary’s report. Ned Stowe (Sandy Spring), General Secretary, reported; documents provided are attached. Ned noted the change, forced adaptation, and creativity of the past few months; Ned appreciated the support of the Yearly Meeting by Friends: spiritually; financially; and practically. The Clerk noted the unprecedented nature of our current situation; no one expected it; Supervisory Committee is continuing to find its way.
We heard a sense that we get to tend to both business and spiritual concerns at this time. We heard a desire for specific information and transparency in dealing with staff reductions; the Clerk indicated that the matter of staff reductions is to be considered at our next Interim Meeting. The Clerk sensed that Supervisory Committee has come to a place of trying to preserve Yearly Meeting programs, even if at a reduced level.
We heard a question on whether the value of our investments has rebounded from lows last month; we heard that the Yearly Meeting does not have the capacity to track their value day by day. We heard a desire for minutes of Supervisory Committee’s consideration of staff reductions; while circumstances may have changed, the minutes may shed light on general considerations. We heard a sense that, given the changed circumstances, such information might prove confusing.
We were reminded that the 1918 flu epidemic is some precedent for our current situation, though folks in 1918 did not have the technology available to us. We heard that Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s annual session was not held at that time.
We heard a question on whether additional government bonds and grants are being sought; Ned indicted that they re not being sought at this time.
We considered a proposal to repurpose camp fee surcharges to cover 2020 camp and property management expenses. Ned noted that the proposed $81,000 would draw would help cover the costs of camps but not cover the entire $463,000 fixed cost; there are efforts to achieve cost savings. We heard that the extra payment to cover loan repayments is not identified as a surcharge in billing. We heard that camp fees (except for $50 registration fees) are being refunded.
We APPROVED repurposing funds designated for bath house loan repayments accumulated to date from camper fees to cover some 2020 camp and property management expenses.
We APPROVED the recommended non-personnel expense reductions.
We considered staffing changes. The Clerk noted that reducing staff will mean we are unable to achieve all of our goals. Ned noted that the proposed reduced 2020 budget includes a $114,000 reduction in staff costs.
We heard a concern that staff reductions might occur without consideration by Interim Meeting. We were asked what role Interim Meeting is to play in staff reductions, in particular what guidance Interim Meeting might provide. We heard the Clerk’s discomfort in having Interim Meeting deal with individual staff positions.
We considered proposed reductions to our 2020 budget. We heard that in-person youth conferences cannot be resumed until the Yearly Meeting’s Youth Programs Manager position is filled. Ned noted that the proposal reduces budgeted contributions to their 2019 level. Ned noted that staff cost reductions would be achieved through furloughs and layoffs, rather than disciplinary firings.
We heard a concern about taking a “strictly business” approach to the budget, and a desire to be mindful of continuing our anti-racist work as we reduce the budget. We heard a desire for clarity and transparency in the process to be used in reducing staff. We heard a sense that principles and our general processes can guide us. The Clerk believes that Supervisory Committee will consult with other Committees in making cuts, seeking to preserve Yearly Meeting programs.
We heard a concern that apportionment payments may fall short of the budget and that no reduction has been made. We heard Ned’s sense that, based on current information, the shortfall might be in the range of $20,000 to $30,000.
We ACCEPTED the reduced 2020 budget framework, recognizing that this will serve as a guide, but that staff and Committees may need to make some adjustments as we move forward and face new challenges and opportunities.
We heard of how staff reductions may lead to increased volunteer activity which can be challenging during a pandemic; we heard of a desire to be mindful of this in staffing, and for the Yearly Meeting to provide guidance to Committees on dealing with the pandemic. We heard of a desire to first consider and rank programs, then adjust staffing as appropriate. We heard a suggestion that Committees be asked how their work is changing and for their recommendations for how to reduce. We heard a sense that even without considering fiscal challenges we must make changes to deal with the pandemic. We heard a concern for those staffers who do not work as closely with Committees as others; such staffers might not have advocacy. We heard a sense that uncomfortable discussions are sometimes necessary. We heard a sense of fear that some staff members may be prioritized over others. We heard a concern that the Interim Meeting may not be as involved in laying positions down as it has been in creating them. We heard a sense that, in some cases, cutting staff means cutting programs.
We APPROVED the goal of continuing all Yearly Meeting programs (even at a reduced level) as possible. We heard a sense that making donations to the Yearly Meeting is a way of moving toward this goal.
We heard a desire to have any furloughs be uniformly applied to all staff. We heard a desire to avoid layoffs. We heard a desire to have a staff reduction plan developed, with options limited to approving or disapproving it. We heard of the General Secretary’s sense that reductions might not be uniform across staff. We heard a suggestion to consider helping any laid-off staff deal with unemployment and health insurance matters, and to affirm the value of each staff person. We heard a sense that staff reductions now will be different in character from the usual staffing decisions entrusted to the General Secretary; a difference in how they are handled and reported may be appropriate. We heard a desire for a timeline for work with Committees and for a list of queries to be used with Committees. We heard a desire for consultation with Interim Meeting before staff reductions are implemented. We heard a desire for Trustees to consider using reserves to meet expenses. We heard a sense that Supervisory Committee and the General Secretary need to get started on financial and other matters. We heard a suggestion for a report in two weeks on the process of considering staff reductions. We heard a suggestion that staff reduction queries be shared before being presented to Committees. We heard a sense that our Manual of Procedure allows for the General Secretary, in consultation with Supervisory Committee, to take staffing actions. We heard a suggestion that Supervisory Committee document its staff reduction process and distribute the document. We heard a concern that staff changes will be based on changes in programs, and a hope that Interim Meeting will have a continuing role in setting program priorities. We heard a sense that change has already resulted from the pandemic. We heard a suggestion that Committees be asked to approve proposed cuts. We heard a sense that feelings of mistrust should not be dismissed, and that such dismissals are hurtful, feeling like eldering. We heard a sense that we are in a painful process, and that being involved doesn’t lessen the pain.
We were asked how the General Secretary and Supervisory Committee are selected and what their terms are. Folks provided details and noted the description of Supervisory Committee in our Manual of Procedure.
We APPROVED the General Secretary, Supervisory Committee, our relevant Committees, and staff, considering this meeting’s guidance and other prompt guidance, proceeding to identify and implement personnel cost reductions as needed to prepare for staffing changes starting 7/1/2020; we directed the General Secretary and Supervisory Committee to report on how they are moving forward. We are mindful that this is not our usual process.
We heard a concern that we may not have true consensus, and an understanding that we are on a timeline. We heard a concern that pressing problems may lead us to rely less on the wisdom of the group and more on individual expertise.
I2020-05 Stewardship and Finance. Terence McCormally (Herndon), Stewardship and Finance Co-Clerk, reported; a written version of the report is attached. Terence noted a change in this year’s budget schedule, planning to introduce the budget at the time of annual session but with approval delayed until fall Interim Meeting.
Marcy Baker Seitel, presiding Arthur David Olson, recording