By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published July 9, 2020
SMYRNA—Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., has decided to use surplus funds from the sale of archdiocese-owned Midtown Atlanta property to reduce school bond debt. The archbishop made the decision in June after consultation with the Council of Priests and the Archdiocesan Finance Council.
When Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory relocated the Chancery from Midtown to Smyrna in 2010, he extensively consulted the councils. The consensus was that proceeds from the eventual sale of the site would exceed the amount needed to pay for the new Chancery. Decisions on how to utilize those surplus funds were to be deferred until the sale.
In late 2019, the archdiocese sold the West Peachtree Street building, onetime Chancery offices and later home to Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School. Then-diocesan administrator, Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, accepted a recommendation to delay a decision on how to use the surplus until a new archbishop arrived.
The archdiocese sold the property in Atlanta for $28 million with a gain of $24 million. After $10 million is set aside for costs of the Smyrna Chancery purchase, the remainder will be used to reduce the school bond debt.
As of July 1, the school assessment for parishes is eliminated. A financial aid assessment of 3% of income above $300,000 per year was instituted which effectively drops a school assessment from 11% to 3%. Any remaining bond debt will be refinanced by the respective schools, allowing for appropriate tuition increases while offering substantial discounts for active Catholic parishioners.
Father Mark Starr, administrator of St. John Paul II Mission, Gainesville, is chair of the Council of Priests. He said the bond payoff and reduction of school assessment will aid parishes, especially those experiencing large drops in collections.
“Many pastors are having to make difficult decisions on how to cut parish expenses during the current pandemic,” said Father Starr. “The change also is more equitable to many parishes who do not have access to schools because of distance, so these parishes are not paying for schools they do not use. This has been a difficult issue for many pastors for several years. It is good to see the school bond debt retired.”
The archbishop also initiated a change in the annual appeal starting with the 2021 campaign. Any overage up to 25% of a church’s goal will be spendable by the parish. Overage in excess of 25% will be contributed to the parish’s endowment or be used to pay assessment debt.
This appeal change effectively returns all overage funds to the parish, said Father Starr.
“During this time of the pandemic, it is important that we as the church are good stewards with the resources of God’s people,” he said. “We are grateful for this opportunity to help our parishes as we all work to be good stewards.”