Budgeting is a key component to a parish's financial viability - Catholic Courier

Budgeting is a key component to a parish’s financial viability

Creating a balanced budget is one of the most important tasks for maintaining a financially viable parish, according to diocesan and parish officials.

“The annual budget process involves the parish finance council, parish administration and those responsible for parish programs,” explained Lisa Passero, the diocese’s chief financial officer. “The annual budget is an important component of parish planning as it represents a financial picture of the parish.”

While weekly collections from parishioners remain the main source of income for most parishes, some also earn rental fees from property they own or from leases of their gymnasiums, noted Bernard Grizard, diocesan director of Parish Support Ministries.

Parishes need to avoid dipping into savings or other assets to pay for recurring expenses, or they could find themselves facing insolvency, Grizard said.

“If they’re unable to pay diocesan bills, like insurance, that’s another red flag,” he added. “Especially these days, with fewer collections and less regular attendance, parishes need to maximize assets to serve the community and provide services.”

Father Jim Schwartz outlined how the budget process works for a financially stable parish, such as St. Joseph in Penfield, where he is pastor. At the onset of the process, finance council members are matched up with leadership teams from each of the parish’s five ministry areas: worship, faith formation, community building and evangelization, pastoral care, and social outreach and operation. The teams then determine the costs of ministry in those five areas, he added.

This information is then shared with the finance council, which also reviews the parish’s income projections for the following year, he said. St. Joseph’s income derives largely from collections, although a small portion is generated from modest fees charged for such ceremonies as weddings and funerals.

The income-projection phase of budgeting is where pencil sharpening may take place, Father Schwartz remarked.

“We have a commitment to a balanced budget,” he stated.

The final steps are the finance committee’s budget presentation to the parish council in May and a vote by the parish council in June. The fiscal year starts July 1.

“The spirit we take at St. Joseph’s is a very collaborative approach,” Father Schwartz noted. Yet, “ultimately, I approve the budget.”

According to pastoral-planning guidelines provided by the diocese, a parish must look introspectively if it finds itself lacking sufficient physical, human or financial resources to meet its financial obligations or ministerial objectives.

“To the extent that a parish or faith community finds itself lacking sufficient life in any of these areas, it must ask itself challenging questions about its ability to sustain an appropriate level of vitality by itself, whether it can achieve that level through collaborative actions with other faith communities, or whether it should not continue as an individual faith community,” according to the diocesan guidelines.

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