MILWAUKEE — The Catholic organization well known for its service to those in need may be serving fewer people, or providing less service and material support due to a 25 percent reduction in its budget implemented by the board of directors of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul District Council of Milwaukee June 9.

According to Michelle Martin, the council’s director of finance, and Deborah Duskey, assistant executive director of the council, the impact was immediate.

“We had to eliminate the equivalent of five full-time positions,” Duskey said. “There will be the equivalent of at least five more in the next budget year.”

The council has 29 full-time and 19 part-time employees.

Decline in bequests

The reductions are the result of fewer people including the district council in their wills.

“The new income to our endowment was down 90 percent,” Martin said. “That’s based on five-year average that we anticipate in our budgeting.”

Martin noted that in the 20 years she has been with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, there were files on 10 to 15 open estates in which money had been earmarked for the organizations.

“We have zero right now,” she said, adding that, due to the economy, people are saving more of their money and giving it to their families.

Martin added that because income from bequests was not what it had been, “We need to look at a different way to fund the programs and core services we are providing.”

Widespread impact

While there is an immediate impact upon council personnel, the cuts will also affect those who receive services directly from the council and the 11 conferences it assists.

The council has discontinued serving a Friday evening meal at its Family Resource Center on Martin Luther King Drive. Martin and Duskey hope the 100 people who were being served will attend the meal programs at The Gathering or St. Ben’s. The south side meal program will continue to serve every weeknight at 931 W. Madison Ave.

Approximately 500 people are served at each meal.

Through its “needy conference” fund, supported by conferences whose resources are more plentiful, the council has been able to provide conferences with fewer resources than the money they need to serve those in need. They are now receiving 25 percent less money than they were.

“Ninety percent of what they spend their money on is beds,” Duskey said, noting that, through its 58 conferences, the district council provides 50 beds and mattresses per week to people in need.

“There aren’t a lot of other resources (for furniture),” Duskey said of the reason people contact St. Vincent de Paul for beds, mattresses and kitchen tables. “We’re the last resort.”

With the next fiscal year set to begin Oct. 1, Martin is looking even more closely at the numbers.

“At the greatest time of need in our community, we find ourselves having to be forced to reduce our expenses and that is going to have an impact on the people we serve …We’re looking at every aspect of our organization right now to see where we can cut costs and try not to have negative effect on the core services we provide,” she said.