Fiscal ’05 MFPD budget projects 21.5% increase in expenditures

By KAREN CALLANAN

Staff Reporter

A fiscal 2005 balanced budget that projects a 21.5 percent increase in expenditures over fiscal 2004 won approval last week from the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors.

Fiscal 2005 expenditures are projected at $22,670,010 — up from fiscal 2004’s amended budget of $18,651,834 — while revenues are anticipated to reach $25,560,319 in 2005 — up 24.3 percent from 2004’s $20,563,508.

“This year’s budget has been particularly challenging for a number of reasons,” Comptroller Jeff Geisler told the Board of Directors Dec. 20. “Obviously anticipated health insurance and workers’ compensation insurance again ex-ceeded double digits compared to our single-digit revenue-growth. Luckily, though, with the success of Prop-osition S, it’s going to provide us the necessary funding to reach our goals and objectives for the district and still provide for a balanced budget for the next couple of years.”

District voters in November approved Proposition S — a 33-cent tax-rate increase designed to address the fire district’s needs for the next five years.

Proposition S received 33,282 “yes” votes — 53.26 percent — and 29,213 “no” votes — 46.74 percent in the Nov. 2 election. Of the district’s 80,988 voters, 66,063 — 81.57 percent — cast ballots.

The 36.5 percent tax-rate increase was formulated by the Fire District Advisory Committee for Tomorrow’s Emer-gency Services, or FACTS, during a two-month public en-gagement process that involved about 100 district residents.

During his presentation, Geisler outlined major changes in the budget from 2004 to 2005, beginning with the district’s tax rate. The 2004 tax rate was 90.5 cents, and Proposition S could add an additional 33 cents for a total 2005 tax rate of $1.235. The board will set the tax rate in August.

“Basically, Proposition S added a 36 percent increase to our tax levy, if we should assess the full amount,” Geisler said.

One of the recommendations of FACTS participants was to separate money for its intended purposes, the comptroller said.

The 2005 budget includes a separate fund for apparatus equipment reserve, which will receive a transfer of $614,500 from the general fund. This fund will be used to pay for the replacement of four pumpers and six ambulances over the next five years and funded by 3.35 cents from Proposition S.

The capital projects reserve will receive a $486,100 transfer from the general fund. This fund, including 2.65 cents from Proposition S, will be used to improve facilities, including the replacement of engine house No. 2, as well as structural improvements and a training facility.

In addition, the ambulance fund will receive a transfer of $940,055 from the general fund. The ambulance fund will receive 5.15 cents from Proposition S, “in order for the ambulance fund to maintain its operations and to have a balanced budget,” Geisler said.

The pension fund, in which its actuarial rate of return has fallen short of its expectations over the last several years, will receive a transfer of $86,930 from the general fund, as well as a transfer of $49,412 from the ambulance fund for a total transfer of $136,342.

The sick leave fund, which must remain 80 percent funded — enough money to compensate for any liability for funding sickness and injuries on the job — will receive a transfer from the general fund of $80,663, plus a transfer from the ambulance fund of $45,373 for a total transfer of $126,036.

The fiscal 2005 budget for personnel plans for a total of 84 firefighters and 35 emergency medical services personnel. Personnel expenditures include filling positions that have been left open through attrition and keeping the rescue squad and fifth ambulance in service for total salaries of $12,094,000 — a 17.5 percent increase from 2004’s $10,288,949.

In addition, public education and training programs cut before the passage of Proposition S have been added back to the budget, Geisler explained, raising personnel costs.

Holiday pay will increase by 4 percent, payroll taxes will increase by 20 percent, employee welfare — including medical, vision and dental insurance, plus 100 percent dependent coverage — will increase by 23 percent, and the 401(a) contribution will increase by 1 percent, while clothing allowances remain the same, for total personnel expenditures of $15,289,493 in 2005 — an 18.1 percent increase over 2004’s total personnel costs of $12,951,458.

In the administration expenses line item of the 2005 budget, computer expenses increased by 120.1 percent from $31,958 to $70,339.

In general overhead, workers’ compensation insurance will see a 33.8 percent increase in 2005 to $874,763, from 2004’s $653,737. The line item “insurance and bond” also will see an increase of 25 percent, from 2004’s $106,122 to 2005’s $132,653.

Geisler did not address other items included in general overhead, but the 2005 budget includes a 51.8 percent increase in equipment and supplies, from $13,125 in 2004 to $19,925 in 2005. Self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, gear expenses decreased by 29.5 percent, from $16,950 to $11,950; non-vehicle maintenance-equipment decreased by 38.5 percent, from $13,000 to $8,000 and vehicle parts and supply maintenance decreased by 30.5 percent, from $97,878 to $68,000.

Election expenses will decrease by 82.2 percent from the total in 2004 of $225,000 to only $40,000 in 2005.

The approved fiscal 2005 budget also projects a 26.5 percent increase in training and education, from $119,535 to $151,235.

Within the payouts/contributions category, the sick leave payout projects an 11.8 percent increase from 2004’s $183,300 to 2005’s $205,000. The pension administration expense is projected to increase by 850 percent, from $1,000 to $9,500.

Geisler explained that the building and improvements category would increase by 274 percent in 2005 for the construction of No. 1 house — totaling $1.3 million. The fire apparatus and equipment will increase by 777 percent, for the purchase of a pumper — which the Board of Di-rectors decided on during the same Dec. 20 meeting — as well as two new ambulances, one following the apparatus replacement schedule, and the other to replace an ambulance totaled in an accident this past summer.

Geisler said the district received $140,000 in insurance proceeds from the ambulance included in the 2004 budget revenues, but the new one will cost $147,000 from the 2005 budget expenditures.

Total expenditures increased 21.5 percent from 2004’s $18,651,834 to 2005’s total of $22,670,010. The excess of revenues over expenditures and transfers is projected at $2,890,309.

At the beginning of 2005, the estimated fund balance is projected at $18,404,321, and at the end of fiscal 2005 it is projected at $21,294,630. This projects 12.85 months of reserve at the end of 2005 for the general fund, 8.72 months for the ambulance fund, 33.67 months for the alarm fund, and a negative balance for the pension fund.

Geisler added that the budget could be amended at any time as situations change throughout the year. He said he already knew of three changes, one of which was the approval of a new pumper purchase, acted on by the board Dec. 20.