BY BRYN A. PETERSON
Happy 2022—a new year with fresh possibilities. Personally, I hope that COVID-19 goes from being a pandemic to an endemic in 2022. The last two years have been challenging for all of us and some good news regarding COVID-19 would be a very welcome turn of events. While 2021 had its ups and downs, I am happy that 2021 is in the rearview mirror.
On a personal note, this past holiday season reminded me once again of the importance of health, family, and community—in particular, living each day with gratitude and not taking life for granted. I was able to take about a week off for Christmas, and it highlighted how taking time off once in a while can help to keep priorities straight—and to see what priorities might need to be adjusted. My wish for you is a happy and healthy 2022!
As for the Washington State Bar Association, we are planning for a financially sound year for FY 2022 (the fiscal year runs from October through September). The ongoing intent for this column is to provide maximum transparency and communication about the financial matters of the WSBA, and to that end I would like to provide information regarding our first Budget and Audit Committee retreat and the midyear budget reforecast.
Before diving into these exciting topics, some good news: The certified public accounting firm Clark Nuber has issued an unmodified “clean” audit opinion for the WSBA’s 2021 fiscal year. This marks multiple consecutive years of unqualified reports, which should give members a high degree of confidence in the Bar’s financial integrity. An unmodified/unqualified opinion means there were no adjustments made, no material weaknesses found, and no management letter issued. The data the WSBA reports on its financial statements is true and accurate. Congratulations to the Bar’s financial team and to the Budget and Audit Committee for their diligence and professionalism!
Budget and Audit Committee Retreat
I would like to thank the WSBA finance team for all of their hard work to put this retreat together and to ensure that it was a wonderful event and a great learning experience for the Budget and Audit Committee members. Here are some of the highlights from FY 21:
• 74 percent of WSBA revenue stems from license fees and related revenue.
• Total revenue is approximately $24.9 million.
• Salaries and benefits are the largest indirect expense at approximately $16.3 million.
• Our current office lease expires on Dec. 31, 2026, and the annual rent is $2.1 million.
One of the most helpful parts of our retreat was to learn to better understand the WSBA monthly financial reports and also learn the nuances between the direct and indirect WSBA expenses. The Budget and Audit Committee was almost unable to contain their excitement given all of the topics and information revealed at our retreat!
We have begun our budget reforecast, which is the process of comparing, midway through the fiscal year, actual revenues and expenses against our initial budget assumptions. This budget reforecast not only helps us to determine how far off we are to our initial budget assumptions, but also allows us to incorporate new and unforeseen expenses. This budget reforecast process assists us to ensure that we course correct as necessary through the fiscal year to come out in the end with right-sized balances and reserves. The reforecast process is designed to maximize efficiencies and to ensure that we are providing the Board of Governors, staff, and the membership with the most accurate, up-to-date financial information.
COVID-19 continues to cause many economic unknowns for the WSBA. Anticipating this uncertainty, we developed the FY 22 budget with some leeway and safeguards. For the FY 22 budget, one of our main assumptions is that 2022 will be more like 2019 than 2021. With the omicron variant, this assumption may prove to be incorrect, but we will have to see how this year plays out.
For the first quarter of FY 22, our actual revenues and expenditures have been fairly close to our assumptions. However, licensing season is the most critical component of our overall forecast, and we will have those actual revenue numbers after the Feb. 1 licensing deadline. Our goal for the reforecast is to present the adjusted midyear budget to the entire Board of Governors at the March meeting.
Have Questions? Please Reach Out
As always, it is an honor to serve as your WSBA treasurer. I take my responsibility to serve our organization and to keep you informed seriously. I encourage you to contact me at any time as to any questions and/or feedback you may have for me for the continued improvement of the WSBA.