Twenty-six of 46 eligible employees of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have taken voluntary separation packages as part of cost-savings measures instituted earlier this spring. The program, announced Jan. 7, was offered to PMA staff members at least 60 years of age with at least five years of continuous service at the PC(USA) as of Dec. 31, 2015. The deadline for participation was Feb. 29.

In an email to staff Feb. 26, De La Rosa said, “we gladly and gratefully honor the commitment of our colleagues who have served Christ’s church faithfully and well,” adding there are concerns in the organization about the loss of the institutional knowledge of these employees as well as how their integral work will be distributed among the remaining staff.

Package details varied by employee based on years of service. In total, $2.34 million will be paid out through December 2016 via the voluntary separation program. Salary, benefits, and unused vacation accounted for $1.8 million, $390,000 was paid as the $15,000 incentive to each participant, and an additional $150,000 was paid as benefits on the incentive.

The total annualized salary of the 26 employees who left the agency under the program was $1.7 million plus an additional $750,000 in benefits. Pending upcoming budget and personnel decisions at the April PMA board meeting, it is uncertain how many of these open positions will be rehired, which will determine what portion of the potential $2.45 million savings will be maintained annually.

Long-term saving estimates from the voluntary separation program aren’t yet available, in part due to the indeterminate nature of rehiring. De La Rosa noted the PMA leadership cabinet will meet March 7 to continue discussions on the 2017-18 budget.

“[The leadership cabinet is] formulating their baseline core programming solely using available restricted funds and then shaping additional programs using projected unrestricted revenues,” he said. “We anticipate being able to present a draft budget for the PMAB’s consideration shortly before their next meeting April 27-29.”

De La Rosa said the voluntary separation program’s primary goal was not in anticipation of a staff reduction. “Elective departures allow the PMA greater flexibility to re-shape and realign programs to better reflect our new Mission Work Plan’s directional goals of Evangelism & Discipleship, Servant Leader Formation, and Justice & Reconciliation, with an eye toward serving the needs of the broader Church with the unique resources PMA offers,” he said. “No doubt, some positions may no longer be filled, or some work will not be accomplished in same way as it was historically, but the PMA’s longstanding core commitments to the directional goals remain constant.”

A similar voluntary separation program was last offered in March 2010 as an employee-friendly method to allow some staff to choose to retire and end their call to serve the church while at the same time reducing the number of staff that might be impacted by an involuntary reduction.