February 2010

We really aim to create conversation here on our blog, and to that end, we aim for thought-provoking topics.  Sometimes, though, more prosaic topics deserve addressing, too.

Despite the well-known dangers in assuming, I assumethat you think Word 2007’s default paragraph settings are as stupid as I do. Hence, a brief primer on changing them.

  • Open Word
  • Click on the Page Layout tab.
  • Click on the expansion arrow at the bottom right of the Paragraph group.

  • Set the Spacing After to 0 pt.  You might also want to set the line spacing to Single.  Mine defaulted to Multiple, 1.15, which seems pointless.
  • Click the Default button.  Word will ask whether you want to change the Normal template, thus setting these Paragraph settings for every new document.  Click Yes.


Who’s that new person answering the phones at the Bayer Center…?

Shelby GraceyThat’s Shelby Gracey, our new Office Coordinator!

Shelby started working for the Bayer Center just this month and we are tickled to have her with us.  She came to us from Keystone Oaks School District, where she served as the Technical Facilitator, or as she puts it “the tech person.”  Shelby has an A.S. in medical administration assisting, but has spent very little time in the medical field and more time working with other types of nonprofits.

One of those nonprofits just happens to be the Sunset Hill United Presbyterian Church, where her husband is the minister.  Shelby serves as the congregation’s Director of Music, which includes coordinating and performing music for church services, directing a 28- member adult choir, teaching music for the Youth Club, and assisting with the bell choir.

These two jobs keep her pretty busy, but in her spare time she likes to spend time with her husband and children (two left in high school and one away at college) and play with her dogs (three beagles and a cockapoo).  In addition, she loves to read and considers dining out a form of entertainment since it gets her out of the kitchen.

Shelby is a Florida native, having moved to Pittsburgh’s South Hills around 20 years ago.  She said everyone likes to ask “how could you possibly leave Florida?” but she adores Pennsylvania – including the snowy weather.

Please join us in welcoming Shelby to the Bayer Center family!!

The U.S. public debt burden is $7.75 trillion, and “most economists agree that our rising deficit poses a very real threat to the health of our future economy.” We could start paying down this debt – as many Americans are struggling to do with their own personal finances – but our federal government continues to run up even larger deficits.

One of the reasons we cannot reign in our spending ways is our political leaders continue to care more about representing the interest of their state, and getting reelected, than about the future health of the U.S. economy. Take Senator Ken Conrad (D-ND), Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, for example. Sen. Conrad is adamant that Congress and the President need to reign in their irresponsible spending ways and pass a balanced budget. He has even gone on record as saying:

“Yes, the small things are important to my state, but I also recognize that the big things are what matter from a national perspective. What really matters is that we have an overall (budget) plan that is balanced.”

As Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Conrad has arguably more clout over this process than any of his Congressional peers. So, in practice, how does he use this influence? Well, Sen. Conrad awarded his home state of North Dakota with the third highest amount of federal earmarks per capita of any U.S. state ($213 per capita versus the U.S. average of $41 per capita for fiscal 2008 -2009).

In a time when we as a country are spending 10% of our revenues ($250 billion) to repay our federal debt, and Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid consume another 57% of our budget ($1,430 billion), it’s good to know our leaders are “looking out” for our best interest. Oh, least I forget, the current 2011 budget request is likely to add another $1.6 trillion to our growing public debt (Did you know that China and Japan, collectively, own $1.5 trillion of U.S. debt?), which went before the Senate Budget Committee this week. The best part of it all is that the Obama administration projects the entitlement programs and the interest on our deficit will “absorb 80% of all federal revenues by 2020.” Therefore, let’s all be clear, our current political leaders, much like their recent predecessors, are fully aware of the approaching fiscal crisis and are doing nothing to avert it.

Speaking of fiscal crisis, let’s not forget about our own state’s budget woes. Last year, the state of Pennsylvania took 101 days after its constitutional deadline to pass its $28 billion budget. PA was the last state to pass its budget amidst the worst recession since the Great Depression. By August of last year, most of the state’s 67 counties could not afford to fund their nonprofit agencies without state money. (Harrisburg did manage to pass an interim budget that would pay the state’s 71,000 government workers, but nonprofit agencies were not included.) During a time of great community need, and declining public contributions, foundation funds, and already scaled back government contracts, Pennsylvania politicians could not decide on how to fill a $3 billion hole in our budget (or 10% of the total budget, which is pretty “cheap” in comparison to our projected 33% federal budget hole for fiscal 2010 – 2011). Instead, nonprofits were forced to take out private loans to continue to operate; reduced their services; furloughed or reduced their staff; and, in some cases, closed their doors altogether.

The bad news for nonprofit agencies and Pennsylvanians alike is the fiscal picture in Harrisburg is sure to only get worse because of the looming debts in both the state employees’ and teachers’ retirement funds. PA legislators entered the millennium with a pension surplus and spent the surplus funds despite the fact that they would one day have to deliver on this “accounts payable”, just as their federal counterparts did (remember Al Gore’s 2000 platform promise to create a Social Security “lockbox”?). Unfortunately, the “payable” starts coming due in 2012, and the Tribune Review and Post-Gazette both estimate it’s going to cost the state approximately $3.5 billion (the Trib says $4 billion, the PG says $3 billion). Mind you, this money will not be used to improve our schools, create new jobs, or improve living conditions in our cities and rural communities, but rather will cover the state’s entire employer contribution for state workers and half of the employer contribution for school workers for fiscal 2012 – 2013. Essentially, the folks in Harrisburg are imitating the same fiscal irresponsibility of their federal counterparts. May the most irresponsible lawmaker “win”, I guess?

We’re trying to figure something out about nonprofits at the Bayer Center.  Have 7 seconds to help?