portlaoise Parish managed to half their outstanding debt last year, despite a €30,000 drop in income. However, the parish will soon have to borrow over half a million euro, to complete the purchase for the site of the new amalgamated parish schools at Aughnaharna, where they hope construction will begin next year.
Their annual accounts for the year 2011, which were published last weekend, reveal that at the beginning of this year, the parish has a debt of only €300,000 compared to €600,000 at the beginning of 2011.
“We have embarked on a lot of capital work over the last few years on the Parish Church and the Parish Centre, and have spent more than €5 million. We’ve had to borrow to cover these costs, but we’re glad that we have been able to reduce the debt,” Msgr John Byrne said.
The parish priest said he hoped the parish would be out of debt by the end of this year. He said the development fund, which brought in over €170,000 last year, and the parish lotto which raised €113,165, were the main contributors to reducing the parish debt.
But with income down by €31,502 and the possibility of another loan for €625,000 this year, the parish priest acknowledged that reducing income could become a problem in the future.
Income from the offertory collections in the Parish Church, Scoil Bhride, Heath and Ratheniska has fallen by over €12,000, while the parish lotto has also reduced by €14,370 this year. There was a reduction in income from the development fund of almost €20,000.
“We’re coming from a healthy position but we have to face the economic reality. We have been hit the same as everyone else. Naturally, if our parishoners have less money then we will take in less. I’m not overly concerned about the income yet, the figures speak for themselves but if the income continued to fall over the next few years then there would come a time when we would be concerned.”
Fr Byrne is still unsure when the parish will need to take out the loan for the school site, which the Presentation Sisters are paying the other half of the total cost of €1.25million.
“It could be this calendar year or it could be next year, but we have been preparing for it and we are confident that we can handle the debt” he said.