2010Q3 Reports: Treasurer

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[All "$" amounts are USD and all "€" amounts are euros.]

(1) Current assets: At the end of 2009, we had $703K in the bank, of which about $362K was in the US and $341K was in euros in Malta (at the exchange rate on 2009-12-31). Although this is an increase of $50K since 2008-12-31, we are actually poorer than we were last year because our liabilities have increased by more than that.

Our primary liability is to The MIT Press for publishing the journal. For some reason, they don't like to actually bill us for their work very often, but the bills, when they come, are rather large. We still haven't paid them for 2008 let alone 2009, and that adds up to about $75K. In addition, at year's end we had a liability for the cost of our new Web portal (as well as normal carryovers: accounting and bookkeeping fees and December office expenses).

On the other hand, we have assets such as prepaid expenses and deposits such as advances to conference organizers and deposits on catering and venues. For example, we had $20K out for NAACL 2010. Funds paid in 2009 for organizing 2010 events are also counted in this category (e.g., our office manager's advance work and site-visit travel).

In sum, our equity is $57K is less than last year. We are poorer, having spent or incurred liabilities adding up to more than we took in.


(2) Conference income: ACL relies on conference surpluses to cover its office expenses and to help fund some of its other programs. A deficit at a conference can be a serious problem for the organization, but in practice conference income and expenses are very hard to predict. We therefore try to budget for a surplus of about 10% (on the $250,000 to $350,000 cost of a conference) even in reasonable circumstances with conservative assumptions, in the hope that even in the worst case there will not be a deficit. However, our surpluses for 2009 conferences were very thin.

    • EACL 2009 Athens essentially broke even: a surplus of about €3000 in Athens, which became a small loss when some additional costs were taken into account.
    • NAACL 2009 Boulder had a surplus of about $9000.
    • ACL-IJCNLP 2009 Singapore, a joint conference with the Asian Federation for Natural Language Processing (AFNLP) had a surplus of about $18,000, of which half belongs to AFNLP.

Comments: Our conference margins were so close this year that we were at serious risk of loss at each of them -- despite initial budgets that seemed quite reasonable and attendance that met or exceeded projections. Factors include reduced levels of sponsorship (the budget projections are necessarily just informed guesses), the inevitable unexpected or escalated expenses, and adverse changes in currency exchange rates. Other risk factors in conference planning (none of which occurred in 2009, but it was touch-and-go for a while for the first two) include economic downturns, pandemics, volcanos, and terrorist attacks.


(3) 2010 so far: The recent decline of the euro has reduced the USD value of our Maltese assets. As long as we use them only for euro-expenses, this is somewhat theoretical. However, the decline of the euro and the pound also makes our 2010 conferences more expensive for many of our European members (the Uppsala conference registration fees are priced in USD).