Fire board eyes April 5 ballot measure

Proposal would help improve fiscal operations, Hilmer says.

By MIKE ANTHONY

A proposal to place a measure on the April 5 ballot that would simplify and streamline the district’s accounting procedures is scheduled to be considered today — Jan. 13 — by the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors is slated to meet at 7 p.m. in the conference room of the district’s headquarters, 11020 Mueller Road.

Board Chairman Aaron Hilmer told the Call the proposed ballot measure would ask voters to approve consolidating the district’s general fund and ambulance fund into one fund, resulting in the elimination of the ambulance fund.

As proposed, Hilmer said the ballot measure would be called Proposition S, or Simplification, and would help alleviate what he described as “an accounting nightmare” for Chief Financial Officer Brian Bond and his staff.

The fire district currently has four funds — general, ambulance, alarm and pension — for which separate tax rates are levied.

Under the existing structure, payroll and purchases must be divided between the general fund and the ambulance fund.

“Before 2005, the fire district was two very distinct departments — it was a fire department and then you had the ambulance side. And what we’ve done since then, we’ve integrated both. We have paramedics on every piece of apparatus. We have firefighters who are literally on the ambulance, too,” he said.

“… Every time we do payroll, we buy a piece of equipment, we buy anything — land — we build a firehouse, we’re having to divide it from these two funds and it becomes an accounting nightmare,” Hilmer said. “So when I sat down with Brian Bond, I said: Brian, if we got rid of these two funds and just consolidated them, what would that mean as far as working inside the office?”

Bond’s reply, the board chairman said, was that it would be a considerable and significant change — “all for the better. We’re not only wasting time with our CFO, we’re wasting time with our purchasing manager. We’re wasting time with our accountant. We’re wasting time with even the deputy chiefs as they have to divide how the people are working …”

The district’s ambulance fund curently levies 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. As proposed, that 20 cents would be added to the general fund levy and the ambulance fund levy would be eliminated, according to Hilmer.

Prop S, if placed on the ballot by the board, would ask voters to approve “a transfer — to take the money from the ambulance levy and just roll it into the general fund,” the board chairman said. “And one thing I want to stress: This is not going to increase taxes. It’s not going to decrease taxes. But most of all, it’s not going to change any type of service they’re receiving. If anything, it’s just going to help us continue to streamline what we’re doing … By doing that, it may not be something that necessarily the residents can see, but it’s something that’s going to save us considerable time and money at the fire district.

“And it just fits into everything else we’ve done, which is to bring a fire district that was stuck back in the 1950s’, 1960s’ mode of thinking, bringing it up to 2011 …,” he continued. “It’s going to be something I certainly hope the voters will approve because it really will help the running of the fire district.”

At today’s meeting, Hilmer said he will recommend the board place Prop S on the ballot. If placed on the ballot, a simple majority would be required for approval of Prop S.