Every synagogue has a congregant like Jack.
He and his wife have been members since they moved to the community more than 40 years ago. He is a past president, organizes the synagogue’s cadre of volunteers at the local hospitals on Christmas. A retired engineer, he is good with tools. When there is a project at synagogue like the building and installation of a new wooden sign on the front lawn, he volunteers. And he always seems to complete such tasks without much fanfare.
The big project that Jack is involved with now is the synagogue’s driveway. Between the change in seasons, and many cars driving on the driveway everyday, the driveway’s wear and tear is expected. There is a big pothole in one area that Jack has been patching periodically.
To hire a contractor and fix the driveway so the pothole won’t keep appearing will cost the synagogue about $20,000. Jack tells the synagogue’s House Committee he just needs $1500 in supplies. He will put together a few other congregants as his work crew and complete the job over a few weekends.
But the House Committee’s budget for repairs has historically had only $500 available annually for such repairs. One year, Jack figures he can complete 1/3 of the project. In year 2, he can complete the project. By doing the work in April or May, he can use the $500 that is allocated in each of two succeeding years.
Not the best way to complete such a major repair project. But Jack figured out a way to complete the task.
HVAC systems, electrical wiring, furniture, carpeting, computers and driveways all have a natural lifetime. Just like the stuff in my house. We have lived in our house for 25 years. We have replaced our hot water heater, oil burner, washer and dryer. And of course we have upgraded computers a couple of times.
And we had to repave our driveway!
Synagogues should complete an audit of their building and grounds to figure out the lifetime of all of their capital equipment. And the other stuff like the driveway, carpeting and furniture. Knowing the lifetime of big ticket items like heating and air-conditioning systems, upholstery for chairs or the pews, carpeting and the like will help your board to plan through the annual budget process.
Funds for such projects can be set aside so you don’t have to be a crisis mode when the air conditioning system is on its last legs. Or depend on congregants like Jack to work the system as he did.
Congregants like Jack – or my niece Susan who works for a large construction company – will know who to reach out to in order to complete a complete evaluation of the lifetime of your synagogue’s capital equipment.
There are going to be projects that people like Jack can’t do on their own or with a work crew. Being prepared with funds set aside for normal wear and tear or on-going capital maintenance make good business sense.
If Jack can save the synagogue some money on projects, that is great. But you still need to have adequate funds available in the event that Jack and his wife move to be nearer to grandchildren, and there is no other person like Jack to take his place.