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New priest compensation plan to take effect July 1

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BRIGHTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston will increase priest stipends on July 1 in an effort to compensate for higher living expenses and defray the cost of Social Security. The goal of the new policy is to be “fair and just for all priests,” according to Father Robert Connors, chair of the Stipend Committee.

The benefits package for archdiocesan priests was recently approved by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley after two consultations with the Presbyteral Council. The policy is usually reviewed about every three years but has not been changed since 2003, except for annual cost of living increases of 3 percent.

Father Arthur M. Coyle, secretary for pastoral and ministerial services, laid out the two primary reasons for the increase in a letter to the priests of the archdiocese. The new policy takes into account both the significant increase in the cost of living in the last five years as well as the fact that priests pay all their own Social Security, he said.

Priests are “dual-status taxpayers,” which means that the government considers them employees for income tax purposes but considers them self-employed for Social Security purposes. Normally an employer would pay half of Social Security, but priests pay the entire 15.3 percent. Under the new policy, the archdiocese will supplement the priests’ pay to assist with this cost. For priests who not participate in Social Security, an equal amount will be paid into the Clergy Fund for their health care in retirement.

Under the priests’ stipend and benefits policy for the 2007 calendar year, the base pay for archdiocesan priests was just over $21,500. The new policy will take effect on July 1, 2007, and the new policy will compensate priests on a fiscal-year basis. The base pay will increase to $25,000, which is meant to cover the cost of living for a newly ordained priest.

Father Connors said that Stipend Committee members sought a “fair and just amount that a young priest, newly ordained, would need.” They took into account that the amount should cover car payments, clothing and vacation, he said.

Father Connors formerly served as the archdiocese’s secretary for ministerial personnel and continued to serve as head of the Stipend Committee after returning to parish ministry at St. Marguerite d’Youville Parish in Dracut.

As in the past, priests will receive compensation based on their years of service in addition to their base salary. Under the new policy that amount will increase from $75 to $100 per year since ordination. There will be a new $1,000 minimum for all priests who have served one to 10 years. Additionally, the amount will cap at 50 years of service.

This system is a way to honor priests for their many years of dedication to the archdiocese, Father Connors said.

The previous policy offered priests $4,000 of tax-deductible reimbursement for work-related costs. Because under the new policy reimbursement will be taxable, the professional expenses allotment has been increased to $5,000.

There will also be a change in the automobile insurance reimbursement policy. In the past, a priest paid the first $700 of his annual auto insurance bill and his parish paid the remainder. In the future, parishes will pay the initial $700 and priests will pay the remainder, unless they live in an area with high insurance. In those cases, the amount will be determined on a sliding scale.

Additionally, the priests will receive an allotment for their required annual spiritual retreat.

As part of their benefits, priests also receive room and board, medical insurance and personal property insurance.

The introduction to the package outlines the policies on Mass stipends, bonuses, as well as offerings for weddings, baptisms and funerals.

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