2009Q1 Reports: Treasurer

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Treasurer's report, 25 January 2009

Graeme Hirst

Much of my effort in 2008, my first year of office, was spent in learning the ropes from Priscilla, and in futile efforts to attempt to take over the bookkeeping. The latter foundered on immense problems of software compatibility, both across platforms and across institutions such as our bank (Wachovia), not to mention my time. Moreover, it is clear in any case that we are now a much more complex organization than we used to be and it is no longer practical to be using consumer-level home-office software for our books. We need a more professional approach.

So with the approval of the Exec, we now have a professional bookkeeper, Mr John Biggs of Baldwin Accounting of Toronto. He is presently working with me on the accounts for 2008, using mountains of information supplied by Priscilla. Right now, he has finished the ledger and journal through to the end of September, and a draft ("without review") income statement and a balance sheet for the period 2008-01-01 to 2008-09-30 are included here as PDF files. All amounts are USD, including European assets as per exchange rates on 2008-Sep-30.

Once the 2008 ledger and journal are complete, Mr Biggs will start on our notional internal accounts -- the full account for each conference and the so-called SIG "shadow accounts". It should be noted that our approach to "shadow accounts" (even their name) is rather unconventional (which is not to say unmotivated), so there is a bit of a curve here. Mr Biggs may make recommendations on conventionalizing them. We can then start to bring Europe into the system too. Right now, we can incorporate only the European Treasurer's year-end statement of assets.

Complete books for 2008 will be forwarded to the Exec in due course, with our year-end balances and statement of assets. It should be noted that it is not reasonable, even in a year without delays, to expect year-end results to be available in time for an Exec meeting in late January. This is a busy period for bookkeepers.

My hope is that once this is fully set up, it can take much of the burden off Priscilla and the treasurers, and we can have our accounts, including full results from conferences, completed much earlier than was possible in the past.

The Future

Obviously the next year or more will be a difficult period financially for ACL. Our income will be down for a number of reasons, but our expenses will not be:

  • Lower interest from our investments.
  • Lower conference attendance because fewer members will be able to afford it -- especially given the high costs of travel to ACL 2009 in Singapore for a large fraction of our members.
  • Fewer people signing up as members when they don't attend conferences, now that the journal is open-access.
  • Competition between our conferences: having three ACL conferences in 2009 is likely to increase expenses more than it increases revenue. Additionally, our two 2010 conferences will have competition from LREC and COLING.

Income statement Balance sheet