Out of 33 qualifying people, only eight took the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s early retirement incentive — three at the Baptist Building and five at White Oak Conference Center.
Monty Hale, church development, accepted the retirement offer and has moved to his native state of Oklahoma as a director of missions. Gary Hollingsworth, executive director-treasurer of the SCBC, indicated that Hale’s position would be filled. “The work Monty did is far too valuable to not replace.”
Pam Carroll, chief financial officer, also took the convention’s offer but will continue to work until her replacement is hired and trained.
Cheryl McCullough, ministry assistant, was the third to retire and, according to Hollingsworth, plans to spend more time with her grandchildren in Alaska.
“They are all choice servants of the Lord and have served South Carolina Baptists exceptionally well,” Hollingsworth said.
With two of three positions being replaced, the net loss of personnel is one. If the purpose of the ERI was to put the convention in a stronger financial position, it did not work. When the plan was announced, Hollingsworth said, “(We are) offering something that could be more of a potential blessing now, when it could be more positive and voluntary, as opposed to being forced if there is a financial crisis out in the future.”
Will there be a follow-up or plan B? While there was no “magic number” the administration was looking for, there is also the reality of a smaller budget. Hollingsworth observed, “With our Budget, Finance and Audit Committee’s decision in our April Executive Board meeting to present a 2018 budget not to exceed $28 million, we will have to cut $500,000 from (last year’s) budget ($28.5 million).” The total receipts for 2015 was $27.988 million and $27.562 million for 2016.
The $28.5 million budget has “held steady for several years,” he said, “but we have not met budget, so we are wanting to present a more realistic budget. It is my desire to find ways to reach our budget goal ($28 million) with a minimum amount of trauma to our staff.”
In 2015, the International Mission Board offered personnel an early retirement incentive for those who qualified and a voluntary resignation incentive for those who did not qualify for retirement. The goal was 600 to 800 people, but 1,132 took the incentive. At least temporarily, it helped the IMB reach a balanced budget.
Hollingsworth added, “I do not plan on offering something like the IMB did at this point. I do not have a magic number I am trying to get to. That will likely be determined once we have found as many reasonable cuts in our budget (as we can) that don’t affect staff.”
The five out of 11 eligible people at White Oak who accepted the ERI are Queen Cloud, Anthony Cloud, Shirley Newman, Sally Kelley and Stanley McManus. Director Thomas Truitt said, “We lost a lot of good folks. All of them were a big part of the White Oak family, and we will miss them.”
White Oak is for sale, but until it is sold, Truitt says his mandate is to operate as usual. Some of the six positions have already been filled, and he expects to replace the others in the future.