Debt

So our parish school is estimated to be about $600,000 in debt.  This per our pastor’s homily/plea for the Feast of Christ the King.  Let that number slowly roll off your tongue.  How does this happen?  Valid question, and I am sure there are probably a lot of things that could be said.  Previous pastors did not manage the money very well?  Sure.  A new parish on our outskirts has plucked a healthy dose of our enrollment?  Sure.  Increasing wages?  Sure.  Relatively low costs for parishioners?  Sure.  And I am sure there are a plethora of other reasons too.  But the ones I have just stated can all be summed up in one word: budget.

Budgets.  Most households have them.  All businesses do, at least all those that don’t end up bankrupt.  It is a relatively simple concept.  You estimate the money you think will come in, based on previous figures and other analyses.  You estimate how much you think it will cost for various services and goods, based on previous figures and other analyses.  The two figures have to match.  If you are conservative, you will build a certain fudge factor into the costs to ensure that there will certainly be enough money to go around for the necessities.  Anything left at the end can be spend on luxuries, or saved, or donated or whatever.  Not that complicated.

Both in the written plea from our pastor as well as the oral one, in trying to assure us that there was a plan in place to ensure this never happened again (therefore, please give us money), he mentioned a budgetary practice that I thought was strange, if not downright insane.  Apparently, he said, the budgets have previously been done in hindsight.  Which I take to mean, we were a pretty well-off parish and we had a sizeable slush fund.  If expenditures were greater than income, they would simply take money from the slush fund to make it all work again.  But it is immediately obvious to the most naive Econ 101 student that this is an unsustainable practice.  If your budget is way off one year, and you dip into the slush fund, it is a clear signal that your budget needs to be tweeked.  To need to do this on a recurring basis, to the tune of 600K, is gross negligence.

So now what? 

1) The parish needs to rise to the occasion to bail out our school.   Our parish just rose to the occasion last year by pledging some $1.5 million to the Heritage of Faith Vision of Hope campaign.  Where is that money?  Can it be used? 

2) Our parish plans to market its school to a wider audience.  Does this mean non-Catholics?  ‘Cause that never ends well.  You end up with a parish largely subsidizing a largely non-Catholic school.  Slowly, the education is watered down to accomodate the new audience.  And lots of people are pissed off.

3) The education is already watered down.  There are obviously a lot of factors involved here, but our kids are receiving a secular education + a religion class.  That is not Catholic education.

4) The fees will be increased, further making this watery gruel of a Catholic education a passtime for rich hobnobs.  Further reinforcing the watering down aspect.  It will become just another private school for the rich.

5) Having said all this, is there an argument to be made for letting the school die?  I understand that there are a lot of people who have received Catholic education and who feel strongly that it should be perpetuated.  But our current system is not what it used to be.  Are there other ways of doing it?  Combining schools?  Regional schools? 

6) Do I, as a parishioner, need to feel compelled to help in this emergency situation? I can’t afford the school now.  I certainly won’t be able to afford it then.  I don’t believe it does the job of forming young consciences.

Steve, our conversation now seems oddly prescient.

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~ by Rob on November 25, 2009.

One Response to “Debt”

  1. Me thinks the answer is Rob needs to get himself to the parish council.

    I sure wish we could go in debt that much to furnish a fun lifestyle then beg and have people just throw money at us so we shut up.

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