South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Auditor reports fire district in solid financial condition

Board’s pay probably lowest in county, auditor tells board

The Mehlville Fire Protection District is in solid financial condition, with its net position increasing by more than $2 million during fiscal 2012.

The Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to approve the district’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, audited by Hochschild, Bloom & Co., for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2012.

Robert Offerman of Hochschild, Bloom & Co. told the board June 26 that the district received an “unqualified opinion” on its 2012 financial statements — the best possible opinion that can be given.

In addition, the district earned a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association for its 2011 financial statements.

This is the 14th consecutive year the district has received this recognition. The district also will send its 2012 statements to the association for certificate qualification.

“… The finances look pretty good. The district still looks financially strong …,” Offerman told the board June 26.

During 2012, the district’s net position — total assets — increased by $2,069,341, to $36,995,067 from $34,925,726 in 2011.

“… Your net position went up by about $2.1 million, or about almost a 6-percent increase in your net position for this fiscal year,” Offerman said, noting the district has more than $45.5 million of assets and liabilities totaling more than $8.5 million.

The district’s assets increased in fiscal 2012 by roughly $2.3 million — 5.41 percent — and liabilities increased by about $266,000 — 3.22 percent.

“… The biggest increase in the liability actually was from the obligation for the pension …,” he said, referring to the district’s defined-benefit pension plan, which the board voted to change to a defined-contribution plan in March 2006.

During 2012, revenues increased by $609,831 — 2.89 percent — to $21,733,650 from $21,123,819 in 2011.

Of the district’s revenues, 76.4 percent came from taxes, 21.9 percent from charges for services and the remainder from other income and investments.

The district’s expenses increased in 2012 by $1,013,787 — 5.44 percent — to $19,664,309 from $18,650,522 in 2011.

Long-term liabilities include debt totaling $1,326,722 due within one year, long-term debt totaling $2,440,370, a net pension obligation of $2,914,636 and a net other post-employment benefits obligation of $110,200.

A total of $3.61 million in certificates of participation, or COPs, were issued in May 2000 to fund the expansion and renovation of the district’s No. 5 firehouse and administrative headquarters on Mueller Road in Green Park. In July 2005, the Board of Directors voted to refund the COPs issued in 2000 with a savings of more than $240,000 in interest payments. As of Dec. 31, the district owed $1,985,000 on the COPs.

The district’s liability for accrued vacation totaled $1,063,291 at the end of fiscal 2012, an increase of $10,703.

The district’s liability for accrued sick leave totaled $866,613 at the end of fiscal 2012, a reduction of $31,284.

In 2011, the district reduced its liability for accrued sick leave by $1,487,347 — to $897,897 from $2,385,244. That liability was reduced through attrition and a $1.1 million payout to employees.

Offerman also discussed the unfunded actuarial accrued liability of the defined-benefit pension plan, which has 32 participants. No active employees participate in that plan.

“… The actual value of the assets of the defined-benefit plan are $5.5 million. So you’ve got $5.5 million of assets, and then you have the liability, (which) is $12.6 million. So there’s an underfunding on this defined-benefit plan of just a little over $7 million …,” he said.

“For 2012, the district’s financial position has remained solid while property taxes levied were increased moderately,” the report stated. “The 2013 budget and future forecasts continue to show that services to the district’s taxpayers can continue based on the current property-tax levels. The district has continued to work hard to reduce expenses wherever possible. Most of the cost-savings policies and procedures that promote the district’s financial stability are in place and are summarized as follows:

• “Continued implementation of the cross-trained fire/medic staffing and ALS (Advanced Life Support) equipped pumpers.

• “Reduction of the sick-leave liability through attrition.

• “Abolished employer self-funded disability and death benefits on future claims.”

The district’s 2012 blended tax rate of 70.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation was “the lowest tax rate of all fire districts in St. Louis County for the seventh year in a row,” the report stated.

The report highlighted several upgrades in service during 2012, including:

• “The district purchased a new ambulance and provides the largest ambulance service of all fire districts in St. Louis County. In addition, the district modified the staffing model to provide a sixth ambulance in service, improving response times for emergency medical services.

• “The district modified the staff model to provide a field training officer who enhanced supervision, training and quality control on emergency medical service calls.

• “The district was the first fire district in St. Louis County to implement a physical abilities test to verify an employee’s physical aptitude for firefighting responsibilities. The district mandates successful completion of this test for continued employment.

• “The district maintained two highly trained operations teams to address high-angle rope rescue and water rescue.

• “The district’s child safety seat program implemented in 2006 has installed over 1,100 safety seats at no cost to residents.”

Budgetary reforms highlighted in the 2012 report include:

• “Safety and administrative reforms have resulted in consistent reductions in workers’ compensation premiums, which have consistently decreased from $893,000 in 2005 to $425,000 in 2012.

• “A new engine house was placed in service in 2012 and fully funded by current-year tax revenues received and reserve funds. Future capital-asset investments are scheduled to be paid for with current-year tax revenues and no debt financing.”

During 2012, board Chairman Aaron Hilmer was paid $1,475, board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman was paid $1,850 and board Secretary Ed Ryan was paid $1,800 — a total of $5,125.

Compared to other fire protection districts in St. Louis County, Mehlville’s board pay is “very low,” Offerman said.

“I think that’s probably one of the lowest districts in the county,” he said of the $5,125 in total board pay.

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