The coronavirus pandemic, combined with inflation and a reorganization of the US bishops’ communications department, has changed the budget picture for the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the 2020s.
“The annual challenges beginning in the spring of 2020 with the pandemic continue,” wrote Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, Fla., USCCB Treasurer and Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, in an opening message to his fellow bishops ahead of their November 14-17 meeting in Baltimore.
“The relief experienced in 2021 from the advent of readily available vaccines met inflation and the possibility of a recession in 2022,” Bishops Parkes said. “Financial market response to economic uncertainties continues to negatively impact returns on our long-term investments,” he added — down 23.9 percent through Sept. 30 and down 23.7 percent for the pension plan .
Because of the continuing impact of inflation and performance — “or lack of performance,” Bishop Parkes told bishops — the budget numbers have been revised from numbers reported earlier in the fall. On November 16, bishops approved the revised budget 215-4 with one abstention.
One consequence of the budget revision is a higher pay rise for USCCB employees next year. Instead of a planned 3 percent salary increase, it will be 4.5 percent on January 1st. Bishop Parkes previously pointed out that inflation was at an 8.2 percent annual rate at the end of October.
Bishop Christopher J. Coyne asked whether further adjustments could be made for some of the USCCB’s lowest-paid workers should inflation continue. He said we’re “paying out some things” in his diocese and giving a 9 percent raise to all staff who don’t earn six-figure salaries. Bishop Parkes replied that he would leave such a step to the Executive Committee.
The revised budget shows no deficit or surplus like the original budget did. The “increased use of carryovers” and other funds from available sources, Bishop Parkes said, is “limited to the amount required to balance the budget that year.”
A new reorganization of USCCB communications agencies accounts is changing, he added. 21 jobs will be lost in this reorganization, including 14 at the Catholic News Service, which will cease domestic operations at the end of 2022.
“Communications revenue reflects the cessation of certain services for a total remaining balance of $500,000, which is $3.09 million less than the approved 2022 budget,” Bishop Parkes said in written comments.
Overall, the USCCB’s communications budget for 2023 is $6.7 million less than for 2022, primarily due to the closure of CNS offices in Washington and New York and “reduced divisional and related staffing” for marketing and communications Episcopal Resources office. which will be renamed “Licensing & Partnerships”.
However, the budget for licenses and partnerships will be cut by 74.2 percent from 2022 levels to reflect “less staffing and operations” as “remaining licensing deals will be contracted out to third parties.”
The archival budget, which was part of the communications, is moved to the Office of the General Secretariat and the copyright approvals item is moved to the Office of the General Secretariat. The Office of Public Affairs, which was previously part of the General Secretariat, is moving to the Communications Department.
In addition, half of the diocese’s income from the Catholic communications campaign is used to finance the communications budget. Nearly half of the $2.85 million from the CCC to be spent in 2023 will fund the CNS Rome office, which escaped cuts in the USCCB “sustainable communications” plan. The plan kept the Rome office open, offering its news, photos and videos to dioceses for free.
The USCCB Office of Creative Services is expected to receive $784,000 in 2023, compared to the $1.1 million it received this year. Communications Administration receives $507,000 of CCC grant funds and renamed Licensing & Partnerships receives $230,000; it received no CCC funding for 2022.
Bishop Parkes said the committee had not requested an increase in the diocesan appraisal, but the lack of an increase was “actually a decrease due to lower spending power.”
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