Friday, April 15, 2011

New St.Paul-Mpls center offers accounting services to churches, schools


The newly opened Parish Accounting Service Center at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is helping to relieve some of the burden on pastors and parish leaders while providing a level of financial expertise many par­ishes cannot afford on their own.

A result of the archdiocesan Strategic Plan, the center offers participating parishes and schools comprehensive accounting and bookkeeping services, including bill paying, record keeping and financial reports. Participation is voluntary.

“If you’ve got any questions about the accuracy, the usefulness or the timeliness of your reporting, or if you’ve got better things for your [staff] to do than to be bookkeepers, we can take that burden off,” said John Bierbaum, archdiocesan chief financial officer.

Applying best practices

Bierbaum said the PASC applies best business practices to the church, a goal of the Strategic Plan.

“I was involved as the CFO of a multi-division public company, and that’s what we did there — create a centralized accounting system to accomplish exactly the same things: . . . drive some costs out of the system by essentially creating economies of scale,” Bierbaum said.

“[The PASC] enables us to assure some transparency in the numbers and some consistency between parishes as to how they report the numbers,” he added.

PASC employees all have accounting degrees and parish experience, said Mary Jo Jungwirth, PASC project manager. “I wanted to make sure [the employees] . . . really understand the environment in which they’re working,” she said.

After a parish contacts the PASC, whose offices are at the Chancery in St. Paul, employees visit the parish and work with key leadership to assess current operations, Jungwirth said.

“We do a lot of listening, then come back with a business plan based on how they operate and the funds that they’re bringing in,” she said. “Next, we talk through the business plan and come to an agreement. Then an accountant works with them to transition the parish to the service center.”

PASC employees work with parish leadership on an ongoing basis, offering reports they think might be helpful. However, the parish maintains full control of its financial decisions.

“Accounting is what we’re actually doing; that’s the product,” Jungwirth said. “But it’s about a systemized process of doing financial accounting and data collection and management. So it’s looking at the archdiocesan parish and the parish operations in a holistic way.”

Rates are determined based on parish size, and participating parishes are required to use the Logos Management Software System. The center will help parishes convert to Logos if they are not already using the software.

A ‘cost-effective’ solution

Business administrator Jon Jakoblich’s parish, Transfiguration in Oakdale, was one of the first to use the PASC’s serv­-ices.

“It’s certainly reduced a labor burden,” he said. “Now they’re generating monthly reports, like a balance sheet, a statement of activities and also cash flow projections. That’s the big one, . . . those cash flow projections. . . .

“Another way that they’ve helped us,” he said, “is by thoroughly analyzing all of our business practices, our internal controls, making sure all those are in place and they’re sound, quality practices.”

Jakoblich said he would recommend the PASC’s services to any parish.

“I think it’s a very cost-effective solution for what they’re able to provide us, which is a lot more financial analysis than I, as a very busy business administrator, could do on my own,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to partner with someone with some additional expertise and a lot more time on their hands to sit down and create these reports, analyze these things, and then hash things over with me. . . .

“It’s going to provide us with a much higher level of financial reporting and give us better information that’s going to enable us to make decisions — the right decisions — to keep our finances on track.” Catholic Spirit

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