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Faith in Tomorrow

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1. By 2013-14, 65 percent of schools will reach the diocesan benchmark of 60 percent tuition and fees, 25 percent parish/diocesan investment, and 15 percent fundraising and grants. No school will have more than 40 percent parish/diocesan investment.
2. By 2013-14, every school will operate within a balanced budget and utilize diocesan accounting, budgetary and reporting procedures/formats.
3. By 2013-14, all schools will improve tuition collectability to 90 percent of all tuition due, based on published tuition rates.
4. By 2013-14, 65 percent of schools will develop a funding plan to augment tuition based on one or two major fundraisers with fundraiser costs not to exceed 50 percent of gross proceeds.
5. By 2013-14, the tuition assistance programs at the diocesan and school levels will be expanded to provide sufficient support to address the needs of 80 percent of families applying to Catholic elementary schools.
6. By 2013-14, every school will utilize diocesan procurement standards for supplies and benefits where available.

In response to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document “Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium” (2005, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), the Diocese of Buffalo instituted the elementary school funding plan in 2007. Under the plan, every parish without a school contributes to a diocesan education fund that supports the 12 regional schools and provides assistance to the parish schools, which are educating students from parishes without schools. The diocesan finance office and the school leadership team are responsible for exercising good stewardship of these funds through budgeting and strategic planning.

As discussed in the Organizational Structure and Leadership section, defining a delicate balance between local governance and centralization of certain key functions of the schools is critical to fiscal stability. Avoiding duplication of certain tasks, standardizing functions and services, and promoting group contracting and purchasing will result in more efficient operation, improved service to our schools and potential cost savings.

Catholic elementary schools cannot survive on tuition alone. We must seek innovative ways to develop a strategic and sustainable multifaceted revenue stream that will include resources from the larger Church, business and civic communities. With a preferential option for the poor and marginalized, tuition assistance must be expanded through established programs, such as the Catholic Alumni Partnership and endowments, to allow all families the opportunity of a Catholic school education for their children.

Finally, efforts must be intensified in advocating for just and equitable treatment of our students, families, faculty and staff in federal, state and locally-funded educational programs.

Strategy 3.1:
Refine and articulate diocesan policies and strategies to address benchmarks, budgets, tuition, standardized accounting practices, audit procedures, procurement standards and reporting formats.
Action Plans:
• Identify schools at-risk, where financial stability is below benchmarks and immediately intervene with those schools to make needed adjustments and/or recommend restructuring or closure.
• Implement a centralized information system to integrate parish and school data for enhanced accuracy and accountability.
• Implement a centralized accounting system with a common chart of accounts.
• Develop guidelines for setting tuitions, the use of tuition agencies and collection of delinquent tuitions.
• Promote meetings of business managers for collaboration and sharing of best practices.
• Provide ongoing financial professional development to inform and train local school leaders.

Strategy 3.2:
Expand available funds for tuition assistance.
Action Plans:
• Collaborate with the BISON Fund and other agencies to expand funding for tuition assistance programs at the diocesan level.
• Articulate and implement a tuition assistance plan at each school with adequate funding sources.
• Develop and implement a plan for emergency funding to aid families in crisis.
• Increase alumni donations by engaging alumni in all programs and development activities through strategies established by the Catholic Alumni Partnership.

Strategy 3.3:
Explore opportunities for collaboration to increase funding and improve cost effectiveness.
Action Plans:
• Inform schools of current services and offerings from diocesan departments.
• Research and secure, using due diligence, appropriate service contracts at the diocesan level to serve multiple schools in areas such as information technology, tuition collection, energy, human resources, supplies, cleaning and phone support.
• Expand the diocesan-approved vendor list for building repair and maintenance, such as painting, plumbing and roofing.
• Collaborate with elementary schools and secondary schools to share resources (i.e. faculty, equipment, space) to deliver services to students in a more cost-effective manner.
• Optimize funding from federal, state and local programs for which the Catholic schools are eligible.
• Collaborate with the New York State Catholic Conference and the Catholic Advocacy Network in efforts to secure public funding for students and families in non-public schools.
• Seek grants and corporate partnerships to fund initiatives related to professional development, academic programs and marketing.