The diocese of Qu’Appelle’s synod, meeting in Regina late last year, approved a reduced budget for 2002, reflecting the serious financial toll residential schools litigation has taken on the diocese.
“The diocese of Qu’Appelle is facing a very uncertain future because of litigation costs, declining fair shares (income) from parishes and a general downward trend in income from sources other than fair shares,” wrote director of administration Douglas Osborne in a financial update to synod.
Diocesan bishop Duncan Wallace said that it was the first time in memory that synod instead of diocesan council was asked to approve a budget.
The change, he said, emphasizes the seriousness of the financial concerns facing the diocese. He also noted that diocesan council may amend the budget if necessary.
Mr. Osborne told synod that revenues were $598,000 in 2000 – $423,000 from the parishes and $175,000 from other sources such as interest on investments. As a point of comparison, he said revenues totalled $676,000 in 1996. “We are facing a deficit in 2001 and may continue to face deficits unless there is some improvement in our revenue base or more drastic cuts are made to our operating budget,” he wrote.
Income from parishes is dropping because the number of congregations in Qu’Appelle is declining, Mr. Osborne said in an interview after the synod.
Income from other sources is also dropping. “This is due primarily to declining interest rates and the fact we have less to invest as we collapse diocesan general purpose trust to pay our legal costs,” Mr. Osborne wrote.
The diocese is involved in about 450 lawsuits related to the Gordon’s school, which was located about 130 km north of Regina. “Our legal costs to date are in excess of $479,000 including $145,000 in (2001),” Mr. Osborne wrote.
The diocese has one main asset remaining: the $1.25 million Harding-Jackson fund (named after two bishops), created in 1975 when the diocese sold some land and buildings in downtown Regina to the province of Saskatchewan, Mr. Osborne said.
The diocese has not been using general operating revenues to pay legal costs and synod approved a change to church law that will allow the diocese to use the Harding-Jackson fund’s capital to pay legal bills.
Among the cuts already made to the diocesan budget: the hospital chaplain position has been reduced to half-time and only half of native ministry is funded by the operating budget. The rest comes from specially designated Venture in Mission funds.