Missionary family moves mid mission with account balances

Discuss questions around local unit policies for budgeting, reconciling, etc. This forum should not contain specific financial or membership information.
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johnshaw
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Missionary family moves mid mission with account balances

Postby johnshaw » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:57 am

I run into situations quite frequently where a missionary's family moves from one ward to another and the Missionary Account finances get out-of-synch. Any of the following scenarios will exist:
  • Expenses continue to be withdrawn from the old ward while the family contributes to the new ward.
  • The Bishops agree to transfer funding unit, complete the process for the transfer but the 'effective date' selected does not account for all expenses (or in our experience doesn't work at all) leaving both wards with wrong amounts in the missionary's account
  • A Missionary is either ahead or behind in their funding of their mission and there isn't any way for a receiving Bishop to know, and rarely does the old unit Bishop know whether a balance exists. [also this is not something that can be automated through the online app and requires a separate arrangement with the Missionary Department]

The document in the clerksupport area https://www.lds.org/callings/melchizede ... s?lang=eng I believe, lacks enough detail to even help clerks figure out how this process works.

My feedback to that document was rejected (requesting that more detail around the process be added) for reasons that don't make sense to me (unless the real reason is that it's just too hard to change documents)

Here was the feedback
The overriding principle is that the bishop is the steward over ward finances and should make determinations appropriately regarding ward missionary funds. When a family moves and the missionary's records are moved to a new ward, the two bishops should make arrangements about the missionary's finances. However, as steward over ward finances, the bishop of the old ward determines what happens to any funds remaining in the ward missionary account in the old ward. He need not transfer them to the new ward.


What are other's experiences regarding this process? How do you handle the reconciliation of balances? Do your Bishops keep track of the Ward missionary funding well enough to know these idiosyncrasies of the policy/process?
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”
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aebrown
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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby aebrown » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:12 am

The key point omitted from the RKATS document linked to is that the change of financial responsibility from one ward to another may be retroactive. In my experience, understanding that capability and using it properly is key to transferring responsibility and surplus funds.

Here's an example of what often happens:
  • The family makes donations through April.
  • The family moves to a new ward and starts making donations there in May.
  • The clerk figures out that there is a deficit sometime in early June when he reviews the May financial statement. The statement shows a deficit for May, and in MLS there is already an additional deficit for June.
  • The clerk informs the bishop, who contacts the new bishop.
  • The two bishops agree to transfer financial responsibility, and -- this is a key point -- that the responsibility begins in May.
  • One of the bishops (usually the bishop of the new ward) calls Local Unit Support and makes the change, effective May 1. Or the ward clerk or financial clerk can make this call.
  • Because the change is retroactive, 2 payments are credited to the prior ward, and 2 payments are charged to the new ward.
Of course, there are many variations on this, depending on when the responsibility is transferred, but the basic procedure is the same. I've seen cases where responsibility is transferred immediately, and others where it's not transferred for 6 months or more.

Rarely are bishops totally on top of the process, but when the clerk knows what is going on, he can give the bishop the details so that the conversation between the two bishops goes well.

And yes, it can be the case that some fraction of an equalized payment remains in one or the other account, but that's simply swept into the parent "Ward Missionary" category and life goes on -- appropriately, no one seems to worry about fractional surpluses or deficits.

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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby lajackson » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:24 am

JohnShaw wrote:How do you handle the reconciliation of balances? Do your Bishops keep track of the Ward missionary funding well enough to know these idiosyncrasies of the policy/process?

The feedback you received is correct. There is no "reconciliation of balances." One ward or another is responsible for the $400 each month.

When a family moves it is usually more convenient for them to contribute to the new ward. The bishops work together to determine when the responsible ward for payment to the Church will transfer. If the former bishop has a significant amount of money still available that he intended to use for this specific missionary, it may be better to delay the transfer of responsibility until that money is used. For example, if a family had paid for most of a mission in advance, it would be just as easy to leave responsibility for the payment to the Church in the former ward until that money is expended.

For a normal situation where the family pays monthly, the two bishops just need to coordinate when the family will begin donating in the new ward, and transfer the responsibility at the proper time.

In the situation where the family is not contributing the complete amount, and other ward member contributions are being used, the former bishop is not required to continue providing those contributions to the new ward. However, the former bishop cannot transfer responsibility to the new bishop unless the new bishop agrees to the transfer of responsibility.

The bottom line is that the two bishops just need to talk and decide when to make the switch, if there is going to be a switch in ward funding responsibility. As for Church accounting, the payment comes out of one ward or the other each month.

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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby johnshaw » Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:09 pm

It is a very strange thing to me that the entirety of the balance doesn't just transfer with the missionary. If designating the Funding ward is the default approval of the Bishop to deduct the automated withdraw of money from SLC each month, why isn't the transfer of the designated funding ward between Bishops the explicit approval to transfer the balance of the ward missionary account to the new ward also implied?

Once the Bishops agree to transfer funding, why the time consuming process figuring out effective dates and ascertaining the number of 'expenses' to transfer from one ward to another. --And-- that doesn't even begin to account for either a positive or negative balance from prior to the effective date of the transfer.

Regardless of whether the feedback to my suggestion was 'technically' accurate, some more explicit instructions around the items I listed and the very detailed scenario painted by aebrown would help clerks help Bishops.

It seems the move away from the wiki eliminates our ability to modify documents in a timely manner. It is one thing I hadn't considered in that process.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby aebrown » Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:43 pm

JohnShaw wrote:It is a very strange thing to me that the entirety of the balance doesn't just transfer with the missionary. If designating the Funding ward is the default approval of the Bishop to deduct the automated withdraw of money from SLC each month, why isn't the transfer of the designated funding ward between Bishops the explicit approval to transfer the balance of the ward missionary account to the new ward also implied?

I could think of multiple reasons why that isn't a good idea:
  • Your proposal assumes that local subcategory balances at the ward level are known at CHQ (in CUBS). I don't think that's true.
  • You're also assuming that the local subcategory balance is correct. In my experience, clerks make all sorts of errors in crediting donation to the correct subcategory, which sometimes aren't fixed until tithing settlement time, or even later.
  • Some of the donations may have come from members of the ward who were happy to have their donations credited to a missionary from the ward, but they and the bishop might prefer to have that funding transferred to a current missionary from the ward, rather than going to a missionary who now is the responsibility of another ward.
  • I have to agree with the basic principle that the bishop is the shepherd over those funds -- not some automatic system that depends on the state of the accounting at some particular point in time.

JohnShaw wrote:Once the Bishops agree to transfer funding, why the time consuming process figuring out effective dates and ascertaining the number of 'expenses' to transfer from one ward to another.

In my experience (and I've done this personally multiple times), this "time consuming process" you refer to takes a couple of minutes -- 5 minutes tops. Look on the Income and Expense Detail Report for when the donations stopped, and how many payments have come out since then. The answer is generally 0, 1, or 2, but even if it's bigger, it's trivial to calculate.

JohnShaw wrote:--And-- that doesn't even begin to account for either a positive or negative balance from prior to the effective date of the transfer.

I'll agree that this could be an issue. It's an issue with many missionaries, even those where the funding is not transferred, but the usual remedy of asking the family to make up deficits relative to their commitments becomes more challenging when they have moved away. Surpluses aren't too challenging -- that might simply change the effective date of the change in responsibility.
JohnShaw wrote:It seems the move away from the wiki eliminates our ability to modify documents in a timely manner. It is one thing I hadn't considered in that process.

I had certainly considered that, and asked that a mechanism for community editing be incorporated, but the powers that be felt that it was more important to have the repository contain only official documents. But that's a tangential topic....

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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby gregwanderson » Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:04 pm

I'm not sure exactly what families are told about donations to the ward mission fund when a son or daughter leaves on a mission. But I suppose in all the excitement they forget anyway. So, when I was a finance clerk, I watched the ward mission fund subcategories routinely. If any member donated anything above $50 to the "ward mission fund" I double-checked those slips to make sure it wasn't meant to go to someone's specific subcategory. If any subcategory fell into the negative for more than one month I made sure the Bishop was alerted. And, certainly, when any family with a missionary moved into or out of the ward I made sure I knew what happened to the ward's responsibility to pay for that missionary. Bottom line: Nobody else is paying much attention and the parents of the missionary don't realize that the ward mission fund doesn't move with them. So the finance clerk really needs to take responsibility for monitoring the subcategories.

It's not just when people move that you need to double-check these things. A few years ago we had a ward boundary change and, of course, the parents of some missionaries "moved" into a different ward without changing their address. Of course, the parents started donating to the new ward immediately. But it was easy enough to figure out what the effective date was to transfer responsibility to the new ward because I just walked to the other side of the church building and asked the clerk to look up the balance.

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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby johnshaw » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:17 pm

aebrown wrote:Your proposal assumes that local subcategory balances at the ward level are known at CHQ (in CUBS). I don't think that's true.

The finance statement I receive each month at the Stake level shows me beginning balances and transactions (Income/expense/transfer) and ending balances, both monthly and year-to-date. In fixing these issues I've had numerous interactions with the Missionary department and they can pull up the balances of the missionaries accounts easily (that has been my experience).
aebrown wrote:You're also assuming that the local subcategory balance is correct. In my experience, clerks make all sorts of errors in crediting donation to the correct subcategory, which sometimes aren't fixed until tithing settlement time, or even later.

Yes, I imagine I am, I don't know any other way to do it. If I had to reconcile each donation over the last couple of years for a family each time a missionary family moved, that is even more cause for worry. At some point we have to trust that the balances are what we are working with. Yes, errors will be found and as stated earlier, fractional differences, or differences of a month or two are easily handled in both the positive and negative direction.
aebrown wrote:Some of the donations may have come from members of the ward who were happy to have their donations credited to a missionary from the ward, but they and the bishop might prefer to have that funding transferred to a current missionary from the ward, rather than going to a missionary who now is the responsibility of another ward.

Again, I'd say, that sure, this is certainly possible, however, I'd hope that when the Bishop designates the funds to a ward missionary that it remain a pretty permanent decision. If every time a missionary moved, the accounts were scoured for $10 and $25 dollar donations to 'keep back, and held for someone who remained loyal to the ward by not moving :) How in the world will accounts ever be accurate, and why would a family all-of-a-sudden be hundreds of dollars in the hole because they moved? It seems an extremely unlikely event.
aebrown wrote:I have to agree with the basic principle that the bishop is the shepherd over those funds -- not some automatic system that depends on the state of the accounting at some particular point in time.

Nothing in my comments replaces a Bishop's position as shepherd of funds. Once the designation is made to transfer the 'funding' unit - approval is granted on both sides. The previous ward has all the time in the world to complete any or all of the above before the Bishops authorize the exchange (either by completing the steps before proactively pushing the transfer, or by completing the steps prior to agreeing to approve the receiving Bishop's request to transfer the funds).

aebrown wrote:In my experience (and I've done this personally multiple times), this "time consuming process" you refer to takes a couple of minutes -- 5 minutes tops. Look on the Income and Expense Detail Report for when the donations stopped, and how many payments have come out since then. The answer is generally 0, 1, or 2, but even if it's bigger, it's trivial to calculate.

Yes, as long as there remains no negative or positive balance, I consider it the same process and not two processes, though it must be complete in two processes. I have rarely seen a transfer that didn't have balances associated with it outside the $400 monthly transaction which is, I agree, easy to ascertain.
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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby aebrown » Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:14 am

JohnShaw wrote:
aebrown wrote:Your proposal assumes that local subcategory balances at the ward level are known at CHQ (in CUBS). I don't think that's true.

The finance statement I receive each month at the Stake level shows me beginning balances and transactions (Income/expense/transfer) and ending balances, both monthly and year-to-date. In fixing these issues I've had numerous interactions with the Missionary department and they can pull up the balances of the missionaries accounts easily (that has been my experience).

Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that. Clearly the specific subcategory balances are known by CUBS and appear on financial statements.

But as for the rest of the proposal to automatically transfer the entire balance, I am still unpersuaded. The problems with automatically transferring a negative balance (which means that the new ward would have a potentially large amount of money pulled from their ward missionary account, based entirely on the accounting of the old ward) would seem to make this idea a nonstarter.

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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby johnshaw » Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:44 am

aebrown wrote:But as for the rest of the proposal to automatically transfer the entire balance, I am still unpersuaded. The problems with automatically transferring a negative balance (which means that the new ward would have a potentially large amount of money pulled from their ward missionary account, based entirely on the accounting of the old ward) would seem to make this idea a nonstarter.


This is an item I've tried to get straight with the Missionary Department many times. When it comes down to it the reason they do not automatically transfer the funding unit when a membership record moves, as I've been told many times, is that the WARD assumes financial responsibility for the missionary. I've had a hard time reconciling this with the handbook or with the general welfare principles Bishops follow.

If a missionary has a negative balance (for non-payment, or behind payments for whatever the reason).

Q. Does the new Bishop refuse the transfer of the negative funds and indicate that the previous ward is responsible for it's accrual during the family's time in their ward?

Or

Q. Should a negative balance transfer with the family so a Bishop can help them work towards paying it back or finding assistance as needed.

I'd like to know what others are doing.
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

― Thomas Paine, Common Sense

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Re: Missionary family moves mid mission with account balance

Postby lajackson » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:58 am

JohnShaw wrote:This is an item I've tried to get straight with the Missionary Department many times. When it comes down to it the reason they do not automatically transfer the funding unit when a membership record moves, as I've been told many times, is that the WARD assumes financial responsibility for the missionary. I've had a hard time reconciling this with the handbook or with the general welfare principles Bishops follow.

I actually think it may be simpler than that. The Missionary Department collects a payment each month from a unit. They do not really care which unit. They don't really concern themselves with whether or not there is money there when the collection is made. The bishop (or more correctly, the family) is responsible for seeing the ward missionary fund can cover the amount.

When a missionary moves, the Missionary Department starts collecting a payment from a different unit, if the bishops involved agree it should and tell them. The Department has the capability to set a month when the change is effective, now, later, or retroactively, which has the added benefit of not requiring the two wards to transfer funds if they got their heads together up front and requested the right month for the transfer. And the Missionary Department continues to make the monthly collections in monthly increments.

It would be up to the bishops involved to determine if there ought to be a transfer of funds for a partial month or payment. But in practice, I have found that the new unit generally picks up the expense when the family moves in and (hopefully) begins contributing to the new unit. And the former unit picks up the pieces with whatever balance (positive or negative) remains in the missionary account.

If the effective date of the transfer is handled properly, this amount will be less than one month's requirement.


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