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February 24, 2003
Volume 81, Number 8
CENEAR 81 8 p. 79
ISSN 0009-2347



In New Orleans, the ACS council will have a third look at the petition seeking a substantial increase in funding for divisions and local sections (see page 42). It will be somewhat different from the earlier versions, but faithful to the spirit of the original initiative. My comments review the petition's history and what the council will be asked to consider and approve.

 8108comment.burkecxdBACKGROUND. To deliver services to our members where they live and work, ACS needs local sections and divisions. They are indispensable to ACS for advancing the chemical sciences, our members' professional well-being, and, because of our congressional charter, our nation's common good.

There is growing concern about the general health of local sections and divisions. Because there are 189 local sections and 34 divisions, the issues are complex and difficult to sort. Nevertheless, many in the ACS Council believe that greater funding is the first priority.


DIVISION ISSUES. A principal mission of the divisions is to organize great scientific programs for national meetings. As a result, attendance at national meetings has grown steadily--good for ACS and the members, but with increasing hardship for the divisions.

Currently, ACS allots to divisions about $300,000 to $350,000 annually, covering only about 5 to 8% of division costs. Even with mandatory member dues and external fund-raising, divisions raise far less money than they need. While some large divisions remain financially sound, others-- especially the younger, smaller ones--are struggling. On balance, divisions are starving for lack of funds.


LOCAL SECTION ISSUES. Local sections have always been a reliable resource for continuing education, professional socialization, and career development for our members. Each year, we ask the sections to do more to enhance science education, promote scientific literacy, encourage promising students to pursue careers in chemistry, and be ambassadors for chemistry in their communities and with government. These efforts require money and ample volunteer time. Besides ACS allotments, local sections raise funds through voluntary section dues and contributions from industry. Some local sections are prosperous, but many are scraping by. Collectively, their finances are worsening.


THE PETITION'S EVOLUTION. In Orlando last spring, a presidential task force introduced, for the council's consideration, a petition seeking increased allotments for divisions and local sections. It sought to amend the relevant bylaw governing allotments. Understandably, the Divisional Activities Committee (DAC) and the Local Section Activities Committee (LSAC) strongly supported it. The petition did not refer to other section problems, like volunteer recruitment and retention. However, some funding would support innovative projects to address these and other operational issues.

The Budget & Finance Committee (B&F) was sympathetic to the need for more funds, but we had serious objections to the petition as structured. It called for the requested increase to come all at once, in 2004. We questioned how ACS, with its projected budget deficit, could afford such an outlay. In addition, it was unclear how these massive new funds would be administered. Thus, we unanimously opposed the petition in Orlando and its revised version in Boston.

B&F asked Nina McClelland, ACS Board chair, to commission a board task force to resolve the impasse in a fiscally prudent manner. Thus the Board-Presidential Task Force on Support for Divisions & Local Sections came to be, with members from DAC, LSAC, B&F, the Council Policy Committee, the Membership Affairs Committee, and the ACS Board.

Working as a team, we openly addressed the issues, resolved differences, and, by November, had reached consensus. Our recommendations for the petition, now up for action, will be presented in New Orleans as a series of friendly amendments to it. They specify procedural changes, but do not alter the petition's substance.

  • Increase divisions' funding in four stages: from the current combination of allotments, representing about 3% of member dues, to 4.5% in 2004, 6% in 2005, 7.5% in 2006, and 9% in 2007 and thereafter.
  • Increase local section funding to 11% in 2004 and thereafter. Allocations are currently about $1.2 million annually--roughly 10% of ACS dues revenue. Thus, total support for divisions and local sections would rise, by 2007, to 20% of member dues.
  • Authorize DAC and LSAC to propose allocations for individual local sections and divisions, and review them at least every three years. B&F will monitor the proposals and work with DAC and LSAC to ensure their readiness for council's consideration.
  • Recommend that the society devise a suitable means by 2007 for permanently funding the petition. If approved, the petition will cost approximately $9.00 per member, on top of the dues increases the council annually decides.
  • Recommend as an interim solution, while the society develops a funding mechanism, that the ACS Board impose on top of ACS member dues a series of temporary assessments: $2.00 in 2004, $4.00 in 2005, $6.00 in 2006, and $8.00 in 2007, to fund the petition.
  • Sustainable savings generated by ACS's Strategic Expense Management System will contribute the ninth dollar. We hope, too, that a strong economic recovery will improve the society's financial projections for those years. If so, the planned temporary assessments could be reduced or eliminated. In any event, we have work to do in New Orleans.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ACS Committee.


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