Church offices asked to trim budgets

by Kara Hansen

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In the current economic climate, most companies are looking for ways to cut costs, and the Catholic Church Offices here are no different.

Chancery employees were informed on Jan. 14 of a hiring freeze, effective immediately, on archdiocesan positions. The freeze applies not only to new hiring, but also to posts left vacant by departures and retirements.

“We’re essentially putting out notice that we’re going to respond to the current economic issues,” said Jerry Mayne, chief financial officer for the archdiocese. “We’re going to take a hard look at open positions to see if we can fulfill those responsibilities and duties without having to hire new personnel.”

Each department has also been asked to decrease expenditures by 5 percent during the remainder of the current fiscal year, exclusive of salaries and benefits. Also, the mileage reimbursement rate was reduced to 45 cents per mile.

“We’re asking departments to defer items in their budget that are not critical, or to permanently skip them altogether,” said Mayne. “We need to be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us.”

An across-the-board salary freeze was also announced for the new fiscal year, said Mayne. And managers are asked, in preparing their budgets for the new fiscal year, to trim them 5-10 percent, exclusive of salaries and benefits.

“As it pertains to [the] impact on archdiocesan departments, it may mean delaying [the] start-up of some new projects that were scheduled to begin soon,” said Father Gary Pennings, chancellor. “It means that managers will need to scrutinize expenditures more closely and be more creative in the budgeting processes so as to achieve the best possible outcome for each dollar spent in their specific ministry.”

The cutbacks came after considerable discussion, said Father Pennings, by Archbishop Naumann and members of the Administrative Team. Nor were they taken lightly, he said.

“Some of the issues surrounding the recent decisions had to do with our desire to practice prudence in the use of our resources during these difficult financial times,” said Father Pennings. “We can’t predict if contributions will track as they traditionally have and we know that demands for services will often increase during economic recessions.”

“Although many experts say that religious charitable giving often holds fairly strong even in trying financial times,” he added, “we want to make sure we have the necessary resources to continue to effectively carry out the mission of the archdiocesan church.”

Mayne concurred.

“We’re seeing many other businesses and industries responding in a similar fashion and it’s incumbent upon us to respond, given the general condition of the economy overall,” said Mayne.

“At the same time, we have to continue delivering services to the people who depend on us.”

Father Pennings said he felt the decisions on expense controls for the chancery offices would ideally help ensure that services and ministries would be able to continue providing their same quality level of assistance, even during an economic recession.

“One of the reasons we took these actions now is to avoid, hopefully, having to take even more drastic actions in the future that might adversely impact the level of services rendered,” said Father Pennings.

“The steps taken to date should not have any adverse effect on the level of services provided,” he said, “and should help ensure that the chancery staff will be available to continue the level of service that is needed.”

Father Pennings also noted that the new financial directives were aimed primarily at the chancery offices, not the archdiocese as a whole.

“Each parish will have to make its own decisions concerning its staff and budgets. Some parishes may decide to use the action taken at the chancery as a model for their own use,” he said.

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