September 27/28, 2014

Dear Parish and School Families,

Today we are launching the first of four written communications, one for each of the months of September, October, November and December, to inform parishioners and school families about our parish’s and school’s finances.

We want parishioners and school families to receive these communications simultaneously, so we are timing publication of bulletin inserts with publication of special editions of our electronic newsletter (E-News) titled “Faith in Our Future.”

In addition, there will be an open meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 19, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Ryan Center. The meeting will focus on “Faith in Our Future”—what we are doing to improve the way we operate and make ourselves stronger financially. By that time, a great deal of factual information will have been provided to you and many of your questions will have been answered.

A number of you have expressed questions and concerns since financial issues came to light this summer when we had to make staffing cuts at our school. Please know that we take your concerns very seriously and are working diligently toward solutions.

The Faith in Our Future Committee was formed to coordinate efforts to communicate with parishioners and school families. The committee includes representatives from our church, school and diocese — Father Peter Murphy, Pastor; Father Ed Czemerda, Parochial Vicar; Gail Clendaniel, Pastoral Council; Ranea Daugherty, parishioner, school parent and former PTG president; Susan Eppley, Pastoral Council and former school parent; Father Philip Farrell, Regional Vicar of Pastoral Vicariate Region 4; and John Flaherty, Diocesan Secretary for Parish Life.

If you wish to express questions or concerns to the committee members, email questions@saintalphonsuswexford.org or mail your questions/concerns to Questions – Faith in Our Future, St. Alphonsus Church, 201 Church Road, Wexford, PA 15090. You may also drop off letters in person at the rectory. If you have suggestions, please email suggestions@saintalphonsuswexford.org or mail them to Suggestions – Faith in Our Future at the above address or drop them off at the rectory.

Yours in Christ,

The Faith in Our Future Committee

To sign up for E-news, go to saintalphonsuswexford.org. Click on “Subscribe to St. Alphonsus e-News” in upper right corner of page.


Overview

First and foremost, be assured that Saint Alphonsus Parish and School, which are among the largest in the Diocese, are strong and viable. That said, we are experiencing real challenges that are new in our parish’s and school’s history—our revenue is not keeping pace with our expenses. This is happening primarily for two reasons. Our offertory collections are declining and so is our school’s enrollment.

How much do the parish and school spend annually?

For the 2014-15 fiscal year, the parish budget is $895,000 and the school’s budget is $1.8 million. These budgets are prepared and approved by the Finance Council.

The school is an extremely important ministry of St. Alphonsus Parish. This is evident by the large amount of subsidy provided by the parish. It is the largest single parish expense each year. Families involved in the school ministry of the parish, as well as all of the other ministries the parish sponsors, are the “many parts” that make up the One Body in Christ that Saint Paul writes about. Our commitment to and participation in different ministries always needs to be viewed in the light of the One Body of St. Alphonsus Parish that we are called to be part of and support.

What is the breakdown for the parish’s revenue?

The parish’s largest source of income is its offertory collection. The rest of our revenue comes from fundraisers and donations.

All references to years in this document are fiscal years (July 1 to June 30). For example, fiscal year 2011 ran from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.

Here is a breakdown of annual offertory collections:

  • 2011 — $874,144 (93% of income);
  • 2012 — $849,435 (94%);
  • 2013 — $829,850 (89%);
  • 2014 — $789,978 (82%).

What is the breakdown for the school’s revenue?

The school’s largest source of income—65%—comes from tuition. An additional 6% to 11% comes from fundraising/donation income and 6% is provided annually by our participation in the elementary schools grants program that is administered by the diocese. Parishes without a school contribute a percentage of their income (usually 10%) to the grant program. That money is then distributed to parishes with a school where that school serves families from outside the parish. This is not diocesan money, but money from non-school parishes that is administered by the diocese.

The parish subsidizes about 15% to 20% of the school’s operating budget. The amount varies each year:

  • $355,000 in 2011;
  • $301,703 in 2012;
  • $280,000 in 2013; and,
  • $308,000 in 2014.

What is happening with parish revenue?

Our offertory collections are trending downward. The offertory—our largest source of income—declined 9.6% from 2011 to 2014 for a total of more than $84,000.

What is happening with school revenue?

Our school enrollment is following a downward trend, as are many Catholic elementary schools across the diocese given a declining number of school-age children in most areas. For the 2014-15 school year, 67% of the 58 elementary schools in the Diocese saw some level of decline in enrollment. However, only 10% of the schools saw a decline larger than 10%.

This school year’s budget was based on an enrollment of 395—that was the number of students committed to the school as of May. However, several families left for a variety of reasons, bringing the current enrollment to 361—331 students in grades K-8 and 30 in preschool. In comparison, we had 486 students in grades K-8 and 24 preschoolers in the 2008-2009 school year. The loss of 30 students could mean a loss of more than $100,000.

When enrollment declines, so does the school’s main source of income—tuition. Our tuition is $3,800 for the first child, $3,350 for the second and $1,800 for the third; these numbers apply to students belonging to our parish or to a Catholic parish without a school. All others pay $5,100 per child. The preschool tuition rates are $1,150 for 3-year-olds and $1,450 for 4-year-olds.

What about expenses?

Expenses are trending up. Nevertheless, diocesan officials tell us that our parish expenses are fairly lean already, making it difficult to cut much. They based this observation on a comparison to seven similar parishes. So our challenge is not primarily expense control but increasing revenue.

Are we paying our bills?

Yes, with the exception of one very large bill for health insurance. By the end of the 2014 fiscal year on June 30, that amount totaled $241,000—$190,000 for school employees and $51,000 for parish employees. This liability could increase by another $140,000 by the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year if we do not take action between now and then.

Does this mean our employees are uninsured?

No. The diocese is covering this cost while waiting for payment from us.

What are we doing about these problems?

While the decline in offertory has been occurring for some time, the financial problems related to the school budget only occurred this summer when the enrollment numbers changed significantly. Even before that, tuition and fundraising requirements were increased for our school families — these increases were published in March in packets outlining requirements for the next school year.

Because of a limited cash flow this summer — when tuition payments were not coming into our coffers—we requested a loan from the diocese to enable us to meet payroll and pay bills. Instead of approving a loan, the Diocese advanced our $115,000 elementary school grant to us, thereby enabling us to meet our financial obligations. We usually receive half of this money in November and the second half in May.

Due to the drop in enrollment, the school was overstaffed. Accordingly, we made staff reductions that had a minimal impact on the core curriculum. Teachers’ planning periods were reduced to what is typical in an elementary school—teachers still receive at least one planning period per day, which is required by their contract.

What else?

Our beautiful 175-year-old parish may soon incur expenses associated with its age—potential replacement of church roofs, boilers, exterior doors, to name a few. The stained glass windows in our bell tower also need work to stabilize them; they are loose. We also need to correct the grading of the road between the church and cemetery. Currently, rain drains toward the church and into the basement.

What about money from the Church Alive campaign?

Our Campaign for The Church Alive! is a capital and endowment campaign—those funds cannot be used for day-to-day operating costs. The campaign at St. Alphonsus was conducted with the understanding that the funds would be used for air conditioning, restrooms and a meeting room. Parishioners made their pledges with that in mind. The possibility of changing the campaign plan would have to be reviewed and approved by the Pastor Advisory Committee of the diocesan Campaign for the Church Alive! and donors would have to be contacted to see if they would be willing to have their donations re-directed to a different purpose.

What is happening now to deal with these problems?

We have started a process that involves parish, school and diocesan representatives.

How is the Finance Council involved?

St. Alphonsus’ Finance Council met Monday evening (Sept. 22) with diocesan officials —Father Philip Farrell, Regional Vicar; Jim Stierheim, Audit Supervisor for the Diocese; Sister Mary Jo Mutschler, Associate Superintendent for Schools; Roy Cartier, Director of Office for Planning & Budget. Also present were Father Murphy, Father Ed, Principal Robert Reese and Lori McKinniss, who handles accounting for the parish and school. Finance Council Chair Joe Dominijanni presented a summary/analysis of the parish’s and school’s finances from 2011 to the present, as well as school enrollment from 2009 to the present.

Diocesan officials also offered facts and figures, comparisons and observations about other parishes and schools in the diocese. The conversation also centered on how the parish/school got to this point and what to do to move forward.

The Finance Council will meet jointly with the Pastoral Council and parish staff in the future. Diocesan officials encouraged those present to contact them whenever their expertise or help is needed.

What’s next?

We will issue our next communication on Oct. 18 via bulletin insert and E-News. Obviously, we would not fit everything into this first communication.

Parish, school and diocesan representatives are analyzing the information collected so far to answer the many questions raised because of the financial situation. They also are strategizing on the best ways to improve the financial situation and improve communication.

All of this is leading up to the development and implementation of a plan to respond effectively and strategically to the recent challenges our parish and school are facing. This plan will be outlined in a future communication and presented on Nov. 19 at the open meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ryan Center.

What can I do?

  • First and foremost, as followers of Christ, we know the power of prayer. So we ask that you pray for the parish and school.
  • Be an ambassador for the parish and school. Use every opportunity you have to tell people the good news about the wonderful parish and school at Saint Alphonsus. Invite people to attend Mass, visit the school, enroll their child in the school.
  • Donate your time and talent to the parish and school. Obviously, we need your financial support, but the parish and school also need you and whatever you can do, however big or small, to make a difference by volunteering.
  • Perhaps you have ideas for unique fundraisers, know of grant opportunities or plan to ask your rich Aunt Millie to bequeath money to the church and school. Maybe you are an energy genius and know of ways to cut costs in our facilities. We are open to suggestions.

As people filled with God’s graces and the Holy Spirit, we are called to nurture an attitude of gratitude: a Gospel virtue calling us to focus on God’s blessings in our parish for the past 175 years, and in our school for the past 125 years.

We would not have been able to accomplish anything without God’s blessings. Our parish and school were not mere building projects our ancestors undertook. Rather, they were expressions of faith that the Gospel of Jesus Christ might find a new place to grow in the Wexford area.

Another word for gratitude is Eucharist–our thanksgiving to God for being able to have a place to worship and to educate our youth. This is our opportunity to offer our sacrifice of praise. Our Sunday Eucharist—our gratitude—is a faith-filled expression of our hearts. We recognize God’s blessings to us. In gratitude, we work and pray that we can keep those blessings thriving that, in coming together as a community, St. Alphonsus’ 175th anniversary as a parish and 125th anniversary as a school will be a pivotal moment in our history.

St. Alphonsus Anniversary Logo as PNG file