Saturday, 17 December 2016

R C Archdiocese of Port of Spain - Parish of St. Mary's - St. James, Mucurapo, Cocorite - Part II

When I started at St. Mary's, coming from a background of external audit with a few other areas of learning thrown in, I was learning about finance in another world. Some of the important areas of this world were:
  • Cash accounting which consisted of:
    • Timing of orders and purchases to take account of cash inflows and planned expenditure.
    • Timing of payments to take account of funds being deposited to the bank account. This worked especially well with respect to the receipt of collections at funeral services which had to be paid to third parties. The funds had to be deposited and cleared before the cheque could be issued. This was designed to ensure that challenges with deposits which were made were dealt with prior to parting with funds, especially to a third party... :)
    • A sense of order was developed in that due dates were monitored and statutory payments were made on time.
  • Record keeping meant getting the payments, collections and other receipts analysed, bank reconciliations balanced, information being entered into the Annual Report and other reports being prepared.  Early in the term of appointment, we realized that another bank account which was to be used for fundraising activity meant that there was some form of separation between funds which were received for the operating activity of the Parish and the funds which were  received for another purpose. Having to provide financial services for another not for profit (Simeanna Home) which operated within the parish, meant maintaining another set of records. This too was a learning experience.
  • Budgeting for the finances for a new year was to be prepared, discussed and approved. Having started work in May/June with an end of year coming after close to six months in the post, was its own learning experience. One of the main points to this exercise  was listing the assumptions to the budget so that everyone was on the same page as we were all new to one another, the financial activities of the Parish and the Parish life and leaving records meant that understanding what was planned was easy after some time had elapsed. I was a newcomer to life in close proximity of the geographical location of the Parish as I lived within the boundaries of the parish however our previous address was much further away from the church, and at best I was formerly a church go-er. Back to budgeting, there were funds which:
    • Belonged to the parish as its income and which were to be used for its operating expenses in as best a way as possible.
    • Were received for the renovation of the church building and which was to be sent to the Chancery for holding in the Silver Fund of the Parish. In the early years, this interest was eagerly awaited as every penny counted in saving for the renovation of the church.
    • Were received for sacramental activity and which was to be sent to the Chancery and which was to be used to fund the payments for the priests. These included collections for Easter and Christmas.
  • Authority to commit the Parish was not to be taken lightly. Although persons were engaged in activity for the service of God and church, not everyone had the authority to commit the parish in a financial manner. Those who had the authority to incur a financial liability on behalf of the parish had limits and also there was a need to co sign payments. Only the priest had a higher financial limit than the other signatories and was able to sign by himself. However, that was hardly ever the case as the priests were prudent and very open with respect to their spending.
  • Fundraising was going to be a part of life. Luckily there were persons who were willing to accept responsibility for planning, executing the events, managing the funds within the guidelines of the parish and to track best practices, prepare a report to document as much as possible on the event for institutional knowledge.
There is more to come...

Jennifer N Bailey

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