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Correction to This Article
ยท A May 31 Page One article on Washington National Cathedral contained several errors. The $7 million that the cathedral invested in new programming over three years was part of a $15 million unrestricted bequest. The $7 million -- not the entire bequest -- ends in the upcoming fiscal year. The last name of cathedral governing board member Craig McKee was misspelled. A school field trip program has been used by 8,000 Washington area children and teachers during this fiscal year, not each year. The cathedral's Family Saturday program was used by 2,000 participants this year, not families. Also, cathedral officials did not state that the cathedral has plans to reach out to Washington's younger, new-money elite.

National Cathedral In Fiscal Squeeze

Funding Shortfall, Program Expansion Result in Layoffs

Video
Due to limited resources, the Washington National Cathedral is closing its greenhouse. Video by Jacqueline L. Salmon/The Washington Post
Cathedral Visitors
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By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 31, 2008

These are tough times at Washington National Cathedral.

This Story

Facing financial difficulties, the 100-year-old institution recently laid off 33 people, including clergy -- its first layoff in decades -- as it struggles to balance its budget. It is suspending programs, asking some remaining staffers to double up on duties and closing its popular greenhouse, a move that has stirred community anger.

"We're in a phase of significant tightening," said the Very Rev. Samuel Lloyd III, who took the helm of the Episcopal cathedral as dean in 2005. He said the severity of the budget shortfall caught leaders by surprise. "We didn't expect that we would have to do what we have done."

Soon-to-be former employees say they are devastated. "It came out of nowhere," said greenhouse employee Patricia Downey, her voice wobbly with emotion. "It's been hard."

The nationally known landmark, whose Gothic towers can be seen for miles from its site in Northwest Washington, is a popular destination that is expected to attract about 500,000 visitors this fiscal year. It also has been the site of high-profile memorial services and funerals, such as those for three presidents: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

Cathedral leaders say an ambitious expansion launched by Lloyd to broaden the cathedral's mission, funded mostly by a $7 million bequest that runs out next year, is forcing them to make some tough choices.

Donations, though increasing, have not climbed enough to make up for the loss of the bequest money. At the same time, the cathedral's endowment is declining because of the struggling financial markets. The cathedral uses proceeds from the endowment -- which sources say stood at $70 million before declining recently -- to fund a portion of its budget.

Laid-off employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their severance pay, are critical of the leadership of Lloyd and the cathedral's governing body. They say cathedral leaders ought to have seen the financial crunch coming.

"They should have seen the writing on the wall," said one former employee. "It's very disheartening to see some of the things happening."

But Lloyd defended his leadership, saying revenue did not climb as quickly as expected and the economic slowdown hurt the cathedral's investments.

"We knew that we were going to come off it," Lloyd said, referring to the bequest. "We had hoped that the economy would be doing robustly and we wouldn't have to have the kind of bump that we're having."

Under Lloyd's leadership, the cathedral's budget has increased 26 percent since 2006 to a projected $26 million for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Cathedral leaders say the increase was largely because of the bequest, which was spread out over three years. In the next fiscal year, however, the budget will drop to $24 million.


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