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Citing staffing costs for upcoming negotiations on its master contract, the Writers Guild of America West is projecting a 42% decline in operating surplus from $4 million to $2.3 million in its current fiscal year.

Secretary-Treasurer Aaron Mendelsohn made the disclosure at the May 2 meeting of the guild’s board of directors in a discussion about the budget for the current fiscal year ending March 31. The current three-year minimum basic agreement expires May 1.

“The budget projects a smaller operating surplus next year as the Guild expects to be fully staffed
heading into MBA negotiations,” the minutes said.

The minutes were recently posted in the member section of the http://www.wga.org web site.

The guild has not yet set negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The WGA West board sent a message to its 8,000 members on May 10 that it plans to seek a bigger cut of the $49 billion in 2015 profits from the top six media conglomerates.

Mendelsohn’s review of the most significant capital expenditures included the ongoing elevator rehabilitation and other building improvements at the Third Street headquarters, the implementation of an upgraded phone system, various IT-related projects, and legal and professional fees associated with Tri-Guild audits and bankruptcies.

Mendelsohn presented the financial statements for the fiscal year ended March 31 with the operating
surplus of approximately $4 million attributable in part to increased dues revenue from television
employment and initiation fees from a record number of new writers who qualified for guild.

He said screenwriter dues revenue saw a slight increase after several years of decline and that operating expenses remained under budget, though slightly higher as the result of expenditures for planned improvements and maintenance.

The WGA West reported last July to members that it had an operating surplus of $4.5 million on operating revenues of $30 million for the fiscal year ended March 31 due to “steady” growth in writer compensation, led by the television and new-media sectors, and increased investment income. Annual expenditures grew 6.7% to $25.5 million due to routine maintenance and depreciation expenses, and increased expenditures related to the guild’s public policy program.

The WGA reached a historic deal in 2014 with minimum terms covering “high-budget new media made for subscription video-on-demand,” such as Netflix. The successor deal also modified the option and exclusivity requirements for TV writers amid seasons that have become shorter than the traditional 22 episodes.

Hollywood’s labor negotiations have been relatively low-key since the bitter 100-day strike by the WGA in 2007-08. The key gain in the 2008 agreement that ended the work stoppage involved expansion of the new media provisions of the master contract.