Back on October 23 we had a very good meeting of many different parish leaders: from the Parish Pastoral Council, the Finance Council, the School Advisory Board, the Property Committee, the Pastoral Staff, and others. It was an informative and somewhat sobering meeting. To get a better idea of what was said you can speak to one of the 40 or so people who were there, or you can watch a video of the presentation made at that meeting on our parishes’ physical and financial situation at: www.staustin.org/stewardship.
If you watch that video you will see, as the representative of our Property Committee explains, we have pieces of stone falling out of the front and side walls of the church. This is not new. I have written about this situation in my bulletin column before (Sept. 29, 2013). We are fortunate in that it is a slow-moving problem. It must now be addressed, but we do not have to panic. We can take the time to study the alternatives and come up with the best and most cost effective response, and that is what we will do.
A much more pressing issue for us as a parish is the repayment of the debt on the garage. We built the garage at the height of a boom when construction was most expensive. We ran into large overruns of approximately $1.6 million, mostly for increases in the cost of cement and steel. Then buried gas and oil tanks were found on the property from when it had been a service station. Removal and remediation for those tanks added an additional $200,000 to the garage construction costs. And as construction kicked into high gear, we experienced the financial downturn of 2008, and all the projections for income on the garage fell through the floor. We had just about the worst timing possible.
Since then we have been paying the interest on the loans, but not paying anything on the principal. Now that we have leased all the retail spaces in the garage, the principal is also coming due. Our total loan indebtedness is approximately $5.1 million, most of which is for the purchase of the land the garage sits on and the construction of the garage. This leaves us with very large debt payments.
At the same time our collections have begun to decrease. Our offertory income is down 6% from the projections from last year, which is the level on which we based our current budget. We are currently forecasting a deficit for this fiscal year of over $500,000.
This has put a severe strain on our cash flow. So far we have been able to meet payroll and all our other immediate commitments, but frankly I do not know how long we can keep this up.
We could try cutting our current budget, but most is in fixed costs such as insurance, utilities and payroll. Surprisingly little, only about 10%, goes to pay program costs. So to cut the budget substantially will be very difficult.
The other option is to increase our giving. If every family in the parish increased their giving by $20 a month, about $5 a week, we would be able to meet our commitments, pay off the debt, and have no shortfall.
Personally, I think we have a pretty great parish here at St. Austin. I am loath to start cutting personnel and programs, but obviously that is what will happen if it is necessary.
However, I am willing to increase my donation by $20 a month and am doing so. I hope you will too. So I am asking every family to consider, pray over, and try your best to increase your donation to the parish by $20 a month. If you have been blessed by God and can do more than that, please do. If you are able only to increase a smaller amount each month, please help us out with what you can. If you have not been donating in the past, now is the time to start. We need everyone involved in this critical effort.
If you give by credit card or by bank transfer, you can increase your donation online. Cash, checks, gifts of stocks, are all most welcome. More info on how to do this is available at www.staustin.org/stewardship or you can contact our Director of Development and Communications, Jennifer Anderson, at 512-477-9471 x325 or firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
And please pray for our parish leadership as we grapple with these difficult situations.
Thank you! God bless!