Diocese says has taken steps to keep finances strong - Catholic Courier

Diocese says has taken steps to keep finances strong

Positive financial news awaits the ninth bishop of Rochester, according to Lisa Passero, diocesan chief financial officer.

Diocesan finances are in good shape, thanks in part to the recently announced capital campaign, "Our Legacy, Our Future, Our Hope," which is intended to fully fund the pensions of retired priests and the education of a burgeoning crop of seminarians, she said.

"We are very pleased with our results this year," Passero remarked regarding the diocese’s 2011-12 financial statements, which were independently audited by Bonadio & Co., LLP, a certified public accounting firm in Pittsford. "We have a strong balance sheet, and we expect the same for this (2012-13) fiscal year."

The statements report that the Pastoral Center had total revenues of $25.3 million in 2012, down 4.7 percent from $26.6 million in 2011. Overall expenses were $19.7 million in 2012, up from $15.2 million in 2011. Overall, diocesan net assets grew nearly 24 percent, from $38.4 million to $47.6 million the prior year.

The growth in net assets is largely attributable to an influx of $2.9 million in cash contributions toward pledges of $10.7 million for the leadership phase of the Legacy campaign (see story, page A2).

The capital campaign, which aims to cover rising costs of seminarian education and to cover underfunding in the Priest Pension Trust, supported part of a 32-percent increase in the education costs of seminarians and permanent deacons. The need for the campaign was underscored by the financial statement’s report that the Priest Pension Trust’s assets of $14.8 million as of June 30, 2012, fall short of the projected priest-pension obligation of $18.8 million.

According to the statements, the pension trust for lay employees of the diocese and parishes also is underfunded by about $60 million. As the economy strengthens, Passero said, a 1-percent increase in interest rates would decrease the gap by $12.8 million and a 3 percentage-point increase would fully fund the plan.

"We expect as interest rates change, this gap will be closed," she said. "We will, however, look at increasing the contribution to the lay plan and decreasing the contribution to the priests’ plan. That is why it is so important to get the priests’ plan in a fully funded position."

Financial transfers from the consolidation of the former Monroe County Catholic School System into Pastoral Center operations were another major influence on the diocese’s 2011-12 financial report. The overall effect of school-related transfers was $4.6 million in net assets, $6.3 million in school-related revenues and $3.7 million in school-related expenses. The statement also reflects $4 million in school subsidies paid to needy Monroe County Catholic schools, Passero said.

The report also notes the full repayment of a $2 million loan to Sacred Heart Cathedral for renovation expenses. This was accomplished thanks to a bequest, said Mary Ziarniak, diocesan director of finance.

Thanks to a risk management program put in place in 2007-08, the diocese saw continuing success in controlling the amount of insurance claims, and it reduced accounts receivable and a related bad-debt reserve after several Rochester parishes sold buildings and paid down their debts.

Improving performance in the stock market also made a difference. Passero noted that the market recovered from the recession in calendar year 2011, and that calendar year 2012 saw mediocre market performance.

"Hopefully we’ll see (strong market performance) next year," she said.


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