Mehlville fire district’s tax rate for fiscal 2009 4.6 cents less than ’08

Projected deficit results from decision to pay ‘cash’ for district’s new firehouse

By MIKE ANTHONY

A fiscal 2009 tax rate one cent more than originally proposed but 4.6 cents less than the current blended rate was adopted last week by the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors — Chairman Aaron Hilmer, Treasurer Bonnie Stegman and Secretary Ed Ryan — voted unanimously Aug. 28 to set the fiscal 2009 tax rate at 56.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The tax rates for the general, ambulance and alarm funds remain unchanged from last year at 40.6 cents, 10.2 cents and 2.5 cents, respectively. The tax rate for the pension fund is 3 cents — 4.6 cents less than the current tax rate of 7.6 cents per $100. The board originally had proposed to set the pension-fund tax rate at 2 cents.

The fiscal 2009 tax rate of 56.3 cents per $100 is 4.6 cents less than the current rate of 60.9 cents and roughly 46.45 percent less than the legal maximum of $1.052 the board could levy.

The blended tax rate is a combination of four tax rates — residential property, commercial property, agricultural property and personal property.

“Last year, we had the lowest fire-district tax rate in all of St. Louis County. This year, we are roughly four cents lower than we were last year — roughly an 8-percent decrease,” Hilmer told the Call. “Since 2005, Bonnie Stegman has taken the tax rate from $1.21 to 56.3 cents — an over 50-percent decrease. At the same time, we have 50 percent more paramedics than since 2005, proving more can be done with less.”

The board also voted unanimously last week to approve a preliminary fiscal 2009 budget that projects revenue of nearly $18.1 million and expenditures of roughly $19.3 million — a deficit of more than $1.3 million.

The board will consider the final budget in December.

The preliminary fiscal 2009 budget anticipates total revenue of $18,074,111 with projected expenditures totaling $19,381,403 — a deficit of $1,307,292. The district would not go into the red, however, but would dip into its re-serves. The preliminary budget estimates the district will begin fiscal 2009 with a fund balance of $20,860,576 and end the year with a fund balance of $19,553,284.

The projected deficit results from the district’s new No. 2 firehouse, which is under construction at 5434 Telegraph Road in Oakville.

Of that projected deficit, Hilmer said, “That can be completely attributed to the fact that we’re building our new firehouse No. 2 with cash. So over the last three years, what Bonnie has done is saved up money each year so then when it came time for a capital project, we could pay for it with cash. So that’s all we’re saying is we’re just wiping out our capital equipment fund. We’re doing a large capital project with no COPs (certificates of participation), with no bond issue and without extending any type of indebtedness into the future for the public. So basically, it’s just a planned spend-down of our savings.”

The district’s current budget projects revenues totaling $20,541,463 and anticipates $20,471,222 in expenses — a surplus of $70,241.

The preliminary 2009 budget contains no employee raises.

“… The board will cross that bridge when we come to it later this year. And if we decide for some type of pay increases for some people, it will be reflected in our final budget and we will adopt that in December …,” Hilmer said. “That has yet to be decided either way.”