Fiscal 2006 MFPD budget projects 5% drop in expenditures from 2005

By MIKE ANTHONY

A fiscal 2006 budget that projects a 5 percent decrease in expenditures from fiscal 2005 was adopted last week by the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

Board members voted unanimously Dec. 28 to approve the fiscal 2006 budget that projects total expenditures of $19,302,862 with anticipated revenue of $20,851,963 — a surplus of $1,549,101.

The board voted unanimously Dec. 9 to adopt an amended 2005 budget that projects total expenditures of $20,243,727 with anticipated revenue of $20,970,627 — a surplus of $726,900.

The original 2005 budget, adopted in De-cember 2004, projected total expenditures $22,670,010 with anticipated revenues $25,560,319 — a surplus of $2,890,309.

The original 2005 budget included revenue from Proposition S, a 33-cent tax-rate increase approved by voters in November 2004. The 36.5 percent tax-rate increase was designed to address the fire district’s needs for the next five years. But the board in August established a “blended” tax rate of 86.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, electing not to apply the 33-cent tax-rate increase. The board voted 2-1 to establish the tax rate with Chairman Aaron Hil-mer and Treasurer Bonnie Stegman in favor and Secretary Dan Ottoline Sr. opposed.

“When we look at the district as a whole from the total revenue standpoint, we have less than a 1 percent change or a difference of about $118,000 in our total revenues for the year. So relatively our revenues are bas-ically unchanged,” Comptroller Jeff Geis-ler told the board.

“The only thing that’s different from the previous year that I would like to point out is that whenever the tax rate was adopted, we decided to fund some capital improvements by waiving the tax levy in the alarm fund,” he said.

That decision will result in a $492,000 transfer from the general fund to the capital equipment reserve fund, Geisler said.

“… You’re going to see some funding of $492,000 going into that account with the pretense that we’ll use the same methodology for 2006 that we used in 2005 by waiving alarm fee tax-rate levy to fund capital and infrastructure needs for the district for 2006,” he said.

The board last year placed $902,000 in that same fund last year, Geisler said.

“… We actually deposited $902,000 into that account and for 2006 we’ll be putting another $492,000 in there for funding those needed items,” he said.

A total of $159,038 is being transferred to the sick leave reserve fund — $110,060 from the general fund and $48,978 from the ambulance fund.

Regarding those transfers, Geisler said, “The other amounts that you see here are dollar amounts that we had realized that we could recapture some tax revenues from the prior three years where the tax court has altered the commercial assessments and we did not realize our total tax revenue that we could (have) from commercial property.

“We recaptured those amounts and the board in, I guess it was in August, determined to take that recoupment revenue from the general fund and the ambulance fund and deposit it into the sick leave fund in which to get the funding shored up in the account,” he said.

Regarding expenditures, Geisler said, “… We had a decrease in total expenditures of 5 percent or about $941,000 from last year. This is predominately due to a de-crease in personnel costs even though in offsetting we’re spending about $237,000 more on capital items pertaining to infrastructure, capital needs that we determined that we need for 2006.”

Regarding capital expenditures, roughly $2,157,000 is budgeted for 2006 — about $237,000 more than in 2005.

While $2,157,000 is budgeted for capital expenditures, Stegman said she wants to re-view any capital expenditures before they are made.

“… We’ve allowed that amount of money in there, but that doesn’t mean that’s actually going to be utilized,” she said.

Geisler agreed.

Personnel costs have decreased, the comptroller said.

“… Analytically looking at the expenditure side, there’s a $769,000 decrease in personnel costs over last year,” Geisler said. “Of this amount, $183,000 is related to a decrease in health insurance costs and the remaining decrease is from reduced personnel as well as utilization of entry-level personnel vs. seasoned employees in the previous year.”

Geisler also told the board that he be-lieves a closer look is warranted at the rising cost of computer expenses.

“… Under the administration expense computer, you’ll see a decrease of $70,000 in that account and the reasoning for that is we decided to consolidate all computer expenses into one account, which is under computer capital, rather than having two separate accounts … We’ve had some discussion, I think the district has come to that point where we need to look at our computer expense and our systems and see what we need to do with that because it’s becoming kind of like a runaway train as some people would say on the computer expense side …,” he said.

“On a good note, workers’ compensation decreased for the first time since I’ve been here since 2002 by $47,000, which is a wonderful event that’s happened,” the comptroller said.