Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Diocese by the Numbers; Money

Let me start by saying that I have no idea how endowments fit into the money picture. "Plate and Pledge" tends to suggest that endowment income is not included, but if someone knows otherwise, by all means say so in the comments. Here's the thing: if they be included in the numbers about to be discussed, then we're looking at a worst-case analysis; they be excluded, then the will tend to ameliorate the results.

On the diocesan chart, one can see that P&P has hardly changed in a decade, and indeed as we shall see, parishes tend to show something of the same pattern. But there is a wrinkle in that, because, as we saw previously, attendance is almost universally shrinking. What's compensating for this is that those who are staying are giving more, by a factor of about 42%:

That produces the following chart, showing percent change in P&P, both with and without the 42% adjustment. Unadjusted, parishes tend to show a slight increase; adjusted, P&P shows losses.

I should say at this point that I do not know how the adjustment factor compares with inflation over the same period, but it isn't unreasonable to surmise that it reflects increases in attendee income. It is striking how close the adjusted 2005 distribution of P&P per attendee is to the 2015 numbers:

So now we get to the question of money as it relates to parish viability. One might crudely divide parish spending into four parts:

  • Keeping lights on
  • Keeping the roof up
  • Keeping the priest going
  • Outreach and charity
Please don't comment on this or that line item I've left out; I said it was crude. Anyway, the diocese does give guidelines for the third item, based upon the size of the parish. So here we have P&P versus attendance, with those guidelines marked:
In this case I have truncated the chart on the right to show only those parishes with ASA of 100 or less, in order to show the smaller parishes in greater detail. The general diagonal trend of the data points continues, rising considerably faster than the guideline trend, so that the bigger parishes are obviously not at financial risk. That's obviously not the case at the low end. The orange line represents the recommended total compensation, and the red line is the lower end of the range they give; the green line marks the border between the lowest and second lowest attendance categories.

Looking at this chart, it's hard to see how any parish with ASA below forty is independently viable; most of them cannot afford even to compensate the priest, much less keep the doors open, without considerable aid from the diocese. With ASA between forty and eighty, the situation is not so dire, but there are a large proportion which lack adequate income. Above eighty, the compensation standards retreat as a threat. OK, so here is where that fits into the larger picture: twenty-four parishes do not have an income sufficient to meet the standards, or somewhat less than a quarter of all parishes. Just looking at ASA, sixty-four parishes have attendance of eighty or less, or 61% of all parishes.

What this means in terms of diocesan finances is that, just to maintain the status quo, there has to be a substantial transfer from the larger, wealthier parishes to the small, even ignoring the possibility of priests working part-time or serving multiple parishes. And the situation is vulnerable to economic deflation on the one hand and further losses on the other.

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