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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2007

Toledo diocese cuts more than 40 jobs, several programs

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Louis Cocchiarella, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the agency already has been looking for ways to refocus resources to become more efficient. Catholic Charities, a social services advocacy agency, is affected by the diocese budget cuts more than any other department. It will lose 31 full-time workers, and one full-time post will be reduced to part-time status.
Louis Cocchiarella, executive director of Catholic Charities, said the agency already has been looking for ways to refocus resources to become more efficient. Catholic Charities, a social services advocacy agency, is affected by the diocese budget cuts more than any other department. It will lose 31 full-time workers, and one full-time post will be reduced to part-time status.
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The Toledo Catholic Diocese is eliminating more than 40 jobs and a number of programs to cut $700,000 from its $7 million annual budget, citing financial concerns and a renewed commitment to efficiency.

Nonclerical staff will be reduced from 170 to 127, a drop of more than 25 percent.

The cutbacks were necessary because income has been stable while expenses have risen particularly the cost of health care, which jumped 18.9 percent for the 2007-08 budget year, according to Sally Oberski, the diocese s director of communications.

In addition, she said the cost of gasoline and the unemployment rate have contributed to the church s financial crunch.

The diocese s revenue comes from three sources parish assessments, or the amount that parishes give to the diocese; the Annual Catholic Appeal, and investment income, according to the Rev. Michael Billian, episcopal chancellor and moderator of the curia.

Donations at Catholic churches in the Toledo diocese and across the nation have fallen as parish attendance has dropped, Ms. Oberski said. It is unclear how much of that decline is a result of the national clerical sexual-abuse crisis.

The department most affected by the budget cuts is Catholic Charities, a social services and advocacy agency that will lose 31 full-time workers and have one full-time position reduced to part-time status.

Of course it s been difficult. These are valuable programs, valued colleagues, and important services, said Louis Cocchiarella, executive director of Catholic Charities.

But he said the agency had already been looking for ways to refocus our resources, becoming more efficient and cutting out services that are available elsewhere.

Revenue streams have been affected, but that is not the only driving force, said Mr. Cocchiarella, who has seen Catholic Charities staff drop from 90 to 38 since he became executive director in August, 2003.

Elsewhere at diocesan headquarters, nine full-time positions are being eliminated and one full-time job has been reduced to part-time status.

This is the second round of budget cuts by the diocese in a little over three years. In May, 2004, 11 staff members were laid off and programs were eliminated to trim $600,000 from a $6.7 million annual budget.

At Catholic Charities, the latest cuts affect 19 full-time employees and 12 contract-services positions.

The agency was founded in 1914 to provide care of orphans and single mothers and has expanded over the years to offer a broad range of services including emergency shelter, truancy prevention, adoptions, chemical-dependency services, and mental-health counseling.

Mr. Cocchiarella said one goal that arose from the months of strategic planning has been to shift some programs away from headquarters to local parishes. He said Catholic Charities will help parishes learn to better meet the needs of their communities and those of the people coming to their doors for help.

Among the services being phased out are mental-health counseling, mediation, court investigation, and homeowners assistance all of which are available elsewhere, Mr. Cocchiarella said.

The agency also will close branch offices in Napoleon, Bryan, and Ottawa, Ohio.

Father Billian, who is overseeing the latest budget measures, was unavailable for comment yesterday. But Ms. Oberski provided, by e-mail, comments he made about the cuts for an article to be published Friday in the Catholic Chronicle, the diocesan newspaper.

The diocese is reorienting its expenses to match its income, Father Billian said. The diocese is committed to a balanced budget, and being a good steward of the resources provided to us by God s people.

About 50 percent of Catholic Charities annual budget comes from the Toledo diocese, and the 2007-08 budget forced cuts that were deeper than anticipated, Mr. Cocchiarella said. In addition, funding from the United Way and government grants also have been reduced.

Catholic Charities will continue to provide services to those who are already in the loop, but no new clients will be accepted for the programs being eliminated, Mr. Cocchiarella said. People who call for help in those areas will be referred to outside agencies.

Laid-off diocesan employees will receive severance, and Catholic Charities workers also will be able to collect unemployment benefits, Ms. Oberski said.

The Toledo diocese, which has 306,000 Catholics in a 19-county area, has 130 active and 60 retired priests, and 2 on leave. There also are 36 religious order priests in the diocese.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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