Rev. Paul Turner

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Editor’s note: We thank Fr. Turner for submitting this article which describes a 15-step financial procedure used by St. Regis Parish, Kansas City, Missouri.  We encourage pastors and members of finance councils to send us a description of their experiences so others might learn from their positive results, as well as avoid mistakes.

We had just told our budgeting entities not to count on increases this year.  “Please scale back your requests,” we had pleaded.  They did, and we thanked them.

But now the Stewardship Council swallowed hard and stepped forward again.  “We made a mistake,” they said, and the news was grim.  “We forgot to include the salary for the school principal.  It was an oversight.”

Back to the budgeting entities with another plea.  “Please scale back your requests,” we asked, and, of course, they were not happy.  It was an unprofessional episode in a year when pledges were already down.

The Parish Council and Stewardship Council said they’d help.  Together we conducted a thorough review of the parish budget.  We brought in a consultant from a local Catholic college who prodded us and guided us on a painful journey.

The results are already promising that this year our financing will be better than ever.  Here are the steps we took to a better budget:

1.                 Review the Parish Plan.  We looked at our mission statement and articulated what were the top priorities for St. Regis Parish.

2.                 Review the present budget.  We grouped our expenses into categories that helped us see what were the spending priorities for the parish.

3.                 Compare the plan and the budget.  We discovered that some items we said were important in the plan were grossly under budgeted in the financial reports.  And some parts of parish life were getting too much monetary support.

4.                 Reflect on just economic principles.  We realized that our decisions needed to be subject to a large framework.  We reviewed the basic principles of the U. S. Bishops’ Pastoral, Economic Justice for All, to be sure our decisions were in keeping with broader criteria for just financing.

5.                 Study who contributes what.  With the help of our office computer we studied our contributors by age group, marital status, and affiliation with our grade school.  We began to get a profile of who were our best contributors, and who were not.

6.                 Target improved giving.  We asked the Stewardship Council to target mailing to different constituent parts of the parish.  This design should enhance giving.

7.                 Regroup the budgeting entities.  We regrouped the budgeting entities so we could tell at a glance which ones supported which aspects of the parish plan.  This way we could analyze how well we were supporting the priorities of our plan with dollars.

8.                 Establish the ideal pie-chart.  The Parish Council set percentages for each group of budgeting entities.  This way we could articulate what percentage of the total budget we wanted each group of entities to receive.

9.                 Ask the membership for advice.  We distributed our percentages to the parish membership through the weekly bulletin.  We showed what percentages fit with current year’s expenses, and how we hoped to realign them for the next fiscal year.  We asked their advice in writing or at a public meeting the following week.

10.             Revise percentages.  With input from the parish community, we revised our pie-chart.

11.             Begin the campaign.  We proceeded with our usual annual appeal.  This told the Stewardship Council how much money to expect through pledges.

12.             Assign dollar figures to the budgeting entities.  The Stewardship Council took our revised percentages and the sum of monies pledged and figured out how much each entity could expect for their bottom-line sum next fiscal year.

13.             Ask the budgeting entities to turn in their budgets.  The Stewardship Council gave each entity its total, and the entities worked out the rest of the budget, submitting it back to the Council.

14.             Establish an appeals process.  If the budgeting entities can’t make it with the bottom-line figure they’re given, they may appeal to the Stewardship Council.  If the Stewardship Council cannot make reasonable adjustments, the appeal goes to the Parish Council.  They are the final arbiter.  If they agree to increase one item, they show where to decrease another.

15.             Close the budget.  After final adjustments – if any – are made, the budget is closed for the year.

This procedure has helped improve our financing system, and has given the people a sense that their opinions are being heard.  All who contribute have a say in how the money is spent.  This enhances revenue and provides a more just and honest system of parish financing.

This article first appeared in Finance Council Form 3/2 (Spring, 1992):3-4.

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