By Daniel D. Clark
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My fellow WSBA members, it has been my honor to serve as our Association’s treasurer for the past two years. As we begin the new fiscal year in October, I want to provide some details about the 2021-2022 budget, and, on a more personal note, to thank you for being interested in the financial integrity of the WSBA during my tenure. This is my last Treasurer’s Report, and as I pass the torch to newly elected Treasurer Bryn Peterson (District 9 Governor), I have no doubt that transparency through robust member communication will continue to be a top priority for Treasurer Peterson and the entire Board of Governors. It certainly will be for me as I continue as District 4 Governor (I marked the start of my fifth year in this role in July) and assume the president-elect position for FY 2022. I am excited to transition to this new leadership opportunity and to continue to serve you and the WSBA.
Through June 2021 (the latest final financial figures at the time of this column’s publication), the WSBA’s general fund has a net positive growth of $1,765,240 for the fiscal year. In spring, when we conducted a reforecast of the budget based on actual expenses and revenue halfway through the fiscal year, we anticipated a loss to the general fund of $114,092, which would have come out of the reserves. So it is great news that we are currently on pace for revenue to far exceed that reforecast. The latest forecast by Chief Financial Officer Jorge Perez indicates that the WSBA should end FY 2021 in September with a net increase of approximately $1,391,731. If so, the WSBA will start the new fiscal year with $6,805,873 in the general fund ($2,550,000 in a restricted facilities/capital fund and $4,255,873 in unrestricted funds). Overall, we have performed better than projected this fiscal year because of cost savings from remote meetings with volunteers and staff not incurring travel costs due to COVID-19 conditions, as well as several unfilled staff positions.
FY 2022 Budget
It might be helpful for you to understand some of the priorities and context we are using to make financial decisions for the coming year and beyond. Foremost, the Board of Governors has made a commitment to hold license fees steady (in recent years the total fee has actually been lowered due to a decrease in the Client Protection Fund assessment). I am proud to say we will be able to keep that commitment in FY 2022, and the Board of Governors just made a recommendation to the Supreme Court to hold fees steady again in 2023. Of course, with license fees being the primary revenue source for the WSBA, our budget conversations are focused on how to be as efficient and strategic as possible—especially as we conduct long-term planning and make decisions to enhance support for, as an example, member wellness and rural practitioners.
When the Board of Governors made a decision to prioritize holding license fees steady for a period of five years beginning in 2020, a corresponding financial analysis anticipated careful use of the WSBA’s reserve funds to maintain programs and services, which would keep our reserve fund balance within a responsible range mandated by policy. As such, an initial draft of the FY 2022 budget called for use of close to $700,000 in the reserves to support ongoing services and support to members and the public.
As WSBA treasurer, this is concerning to me, and I will push for a balanced (or even profitable) FY 2022 budget. Future WSBA leaders will continue to have very difficult choices to make in order to hold license fees steady through 2026—choices that will be best supported through a robust reserve fund and lowered annual costs of operating. For example, we have had discussions in the Long-Range Strategic Planning Council about potentially moving the WSBA office location when the current lease is up in 2026 and/or buying a building, both of which I believe would require additional funds from a special assessment on members, and/or from increased license fees or reduced services and/or staff.
Looking ahead next year and beyond, the WSBA should continue to use technology to engage with members and hold meetings virtually, which will result in tens of thousands of dollars in savings as volunteer committees, work groups, task forces, councils, and even the Board of Governors reduce travel costs and meeting expenses. I also believe there are cost savings to be captured in the sublease of WSBA office space as many employees transition to work remotely (we are looking for prospects) and other efficiencies. All that is to say: I am going to continue to advocate for a positive balance for FY 2022 as we pass the budget and as we make financial decisions in the coming year. FY 2021 is a prime example of how we can beat our anticipated budgets through careful diligence and prioritization.
In any event, it has been an absolute honor to serve as your treasurer. I am confident that our next treasurer will have the same commitment to financial transparency and fiscal prudence as I’ve tried to have on behalf of each of you and our Association.
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Fiscal Year 2022-23: Keep up to date on the latest financial statements, finalization of next year’s budget, and the announcement of the WSBA’s newly elected treasurer at www.wsba.org/about-wsba/finances.