When a dollar is spent at the State Bar of Wisconsin, we are keenly aware that it’s your money. Your elected leaders, along with me and my colleagues, have a responsibility to be good stewards of the resources you have invested in your State Bar.
The State Bar’s Board of Governors will act on the first budget that I have presented as your executive director when the board meets in Wausau on Friday, April 20. I’d like to share with you the values and approach I have taken as I have worked with State Bar leaders and colleagues in developing a budget that will be a template for how we move forward with our finances.
The first thing you should know is that we will live within our means. As my dad used to say, don’t spend what you don’t have. This means our expenditures should not exceed our revenues in any given year. That’s not to say we should not use our reserves from time to time. We should, but only to pay for longer-term investments and not for covering ongoing operational expenses. In other words, don’t buy your groceries with your savings.
For at least the last 20 years, the initial budget draft presented to the Finance Committee has not been balanced. This left the committee grappling, in tandem with staff, with much of the hard work of balancing the budget throughout the remainder of the budget process. We’ve changed this approach. My colleagues and I now work at the beginning of the process with our elected and volunteer leaders who are on the frontlines of budget requests, with the goal of submitting a balanced budget on first review.
I am proud to say that we balanced the budget without dramatic cuts to member services and without unrealistic revenue projections. In addition, we do not count investment income beyond that which we can safely predict we will earn from dividends and interest.
We balanced the budget without
dramatic cuts to member services
and without unrealistic revenue
We continue to provide modest investments in our workforce that include merit-based raises and maintaining benefits, but we have lowered our personnel costs in real dollar terms.
Finally, the proposed budget does not include a dues increase. Having said this, moving forward we must have a long-term strategy about what role dues should play as part of our revenue mix and in support of the services we must provide to assist you in your practice.
When I became executive director in July 2017, I reaffirmed the belief that one of the organization’s key priorities is our long-term financial sustainability. Now that we are on our way with a balanced budget for the coming year, we can roll up our sleeves and get to work on a long-term strategy.
Our elected leaders, my colleagues, and I take seriously the responsibility of being good stewards of your money. Want to see for yourself? Just go to WisBar.org, click on “forMembers,” and then click on the “Financial Reports” drop box.