Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, February 15

Faithful to Our Mission Capital Campaign
Fr. Chuck’s Frequently Asked Question
Why not wait till we know exactly what we will renovate and how much it will cost before raising money for the church & rectory renovation?
While it makes logical sense to figure out first exactly what we are going to do in the course of our renovation, find out how much it will cost, and then ask for money for the project, there are several reasons that do not make this a good option for us at this time.
First of all, the driving force of the church and rectory façade renovation is safety. Raising funds while we are still working out the details of the construction (and hence of the cost) shortens the time during which we continue to live with a building in an unsafe condition. Raising money now shortens the time of our liability, minimizing the chance that people could possibly be harmed by falling stone. That is important to us, as hundreds of people walk in front of the most troublesome eastern façades of the church and rectory every day.
Secondly, by conducting the campaign now, we will build up a reserve to use when construction finally begins. If we wait until we know the final details of construction to launch the capital campaign, in order to begin work we would have to either wait until the campaign pledges have all been collected before we begin construction or borrow funds from the Diocese of Austin at a higher rate than the average commercial loan. The longer we wait to begin, the higher the likelihood that construction costs will increase. If we borrow, we pay more for the money than necessary and add to our existing debt load instead of reduce it. In either case, the cost of the renovation has gone up considerably. This is why our Property Committee and Finance Council decided that conducting the capital campaign now is the best fiscal option.
Third, a renovation like this is difficult to pin down completely. In new construction, you know exactly what you are doing and how much it will cost. In repairing an aged structure, there is always the possibility of “unforeseen conditions.”  Already we have discovered that the south and west faces of the church are considerably different than on the east and north faces. We are attempting to eliminate as many potential surprises as possible by performing thorough studies and sample work; for example, we know from testing that we are not dealing with any asbestos.  But until we remove the crumbling façade, we will not know the true scope of the project, so it is not possible to quote the construction cost to an exact amount prior to beginning work.
We are designing a renovation and construction project to a budget limit of $3,250,000, which includes all of the architect, permitting, licenses, and other soft costs, and construction as well as contingency funds. Our renovation and construction plans will not exceed this budget unless some truly extraordinary event or condition is discovered (if, for example, the tower is ready to fall over).
A fourth consideration for timing is competition from other major fund-raising campaigns.  We anticipate that both the Diocese of Austin and the Paulist Fathers will run major campaigns in the near future. We would not be allowed to solicit funds during the time of a Diocesan campaign, and running a parish campaign concurrent to a Paulist campaign would jeopardize one or both campaigns. In addition, St. Austin Catholic School will celebrate its centenary in 2017, and it is likely that a fund drive will be associated with it.  Right now is the best time to conduct this campaign.
Other considerations for timing include the fact that if we wait, the condition of the buildings may worsen and cause other problems, Fr. Chuck may complete his term and be moved to a new parish before we can finish, and people may lose interest and enthusiasm for the project. 
For these reasons we believe it is appropriate to conduct the capital campaign while finalizing the renovation plans. It seems that the right time to address this is now, and by conducting the capital campaign in advance, we will have the funds necessary when construction begins.
God Bless,

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