Mehlville Fire Protection District voters to weigh Prop S in upcoming election

Board votes to accept recommendation of CFO on company to process payroll.

By MIKE ANTHONY

Mehlville Fire Protection District voters will consider Proposition S, a proposal to simplify and streamline the district’s accounting procedures, in the April 5 election.

The Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to place Prop S, or Simplification, before voters. The ballot measure will ask voters to approve consolidating the district’s general fund and ambulance fund into one fund, resulting in the elimination of the ambulance fund.

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. The district’s ambulance fund currently 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.

Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer previously told the Call that voter approval of Prop S would help alleviate what he described as “an accounting nightmare” for Chief Financial Officer Brian Bond and his staff. Hilmer said at the Jan. 13 meeting that he first became aware of the issue when he was signing checks and noticed how the district’s funds were being split between the general fund and the ambulance fund.

“… It seemed awfully redundant to me and after talking to Brian Bond, we came up with this ballot language where we’re asking residents to approve a tax consolidation/transfer,” he said. “Brian has worked with our attorney, Matt Hoffman, and we’ve also been working with our friend Becky Webb at the (Missouri) auditor’s office to get the language in here …”

The Prop S ballot language states: “Shall the Board of Directors of the Mehlville Fire Protection District be authorized to consolidate the ambulance fund and the general fund, reducing the former by 20 cents and increasing the latter by 20 cents respectively per $100 assessed valuation, as a cost-saving measure to simply and streamline accounting procedures of the district? If this proposition is approved by a majority of the voters, the overall tax rate will remain the same and there will be no reduction in service.”

Voter approval of Prop S, Hilmer said last week, would result in “a considerable savings and streamlining as far as the internal structure here.”

Bond replied, “Correct. We process approximately 200 invoices per month and of those 200 invoices, we allocate a certain portion to the general fund and a certain portion to the ambulance fund.

“By consolidating these two funds, we’ll be able to save the time that we spend allocating the invoices. It will save time on data entry. It will save time on transferring money back and forth between the two funds. It will be one less tax levy we have to fill out the paperwork for in the fall … It will save us considerable time over the course of the year,” he added.

Hilmer said, “Excellent. Then I make a motion to place the aforementioned ballot language of Proposition S on the April 5, 2011, ballot.”

Board Secretary Ed Ryan seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved by Hilmer, Ryan and board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman.

In a separate matter last week, the Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept Bond’s recommendation to accept a proposal from Paychex for payroll processing services, including transitioning to an enhanced payroll process.

“The district currently uses an extremely manual and time-intensive payroll process …,” Bond wrote in a Jan. 11 memo to the board, noting the current system “is unsatisfactory due to the following reasons: Procedures are not documented in an accessible format, an independent review is not performed prior to transmitting payroll, reporting is cumbersome and inadequate, data is not readily accessible and large quantities of time are spent on manual processes, impacting the efficiency of the CFO, district clerk, accountant and deputy chiefs. Technology exists to allow the district to move from a process that is adequate to a process that is optimal.”

Bond told the board, “… We do rely on an outside third party to process our payroll. The current vendor that we utilize is a company called Ceridian and again the process we have with them is a manual process, very time intensive. There are certain inefficiencies that take place with staff time. The reporting is cumbersome and inadequate with the current vendor …”

The district obtained proposals from two companies — Paychex and Integrated Payroll Services — to perform the current payroll duties plus enhanced services.

In his memo, Bond wrote: “Paychex was founded in 1971 and now serves over 500,000 businesses with over 100 offices in the United States. IPS is a local company that began in 2005.”

Both proposals offered the following core services:

• Paycheck preparation — including direct deposit — and W-2 preparation.

• Reporting.

• Tax deposit filing and federal and state tax reporting.

Enhanced services include data sharing in which such key personnel as Chief Tim White and District Clerk Carla Juelfs will be able to view personnel information on an inquiry basis and generate reports.

With the enhanced services, many manual processes will be eliminated, including:

• All clock-in and clock-out times will be electronically captured and electronically reviewed by deputy chiefs. Manual time cards will be eliminated, saving time and reducing the cost of office supplies.

• Unscheduled overtime and out-of-classification codes will be captured at the clock-in point and reviewed electronically by deputy chiefs, reducing the use of paper forms.

• Time off will be requested and approved electronically.

• All approved time will be imported by the accountant instead of manually keyed, which will eliminate the possibility of key-stroke error and save time.

• Employees will access their paycheck stubs and W-2s online. No sorting, distributing or mailing will be required, which will save time and reduce expense.

Bond wrote that because of enhanced reporting:

• The catalog of standard reports will be more user friendly and pertinent.

• Exporting functions will be utilized for transmitting pension and deferred-compensation contributions, which will eliminate the possibility of key-stroke error and save time.

The enhanced services, Bond noted in his memo, include a one-time conversion cost.

Paychex proposed a total conversion cost of $10,800 — $9,800 for seven time clocks and a $1,000 conversion fee.

IPS proposed a total conversion cost of $9,116 — $7,616 for seven time clocks and a $1,500 conversion fee.

In his memo, Bond noted the conversion cost was included in the 2011 budget recently adopted by the board.

The district currently is paying Ceridian $13,901 annually for processing costs. Paychex proposed an annual cost of $15,238 while IPS proposed $15,363.

“… Increases in expenses — if any — will be recouped through efficiencies by staff or justified by the outcomes and capabilities of the enhanced process,” Bond wrote.

In recommending the board accept Paychex’s proposal, Bond wrote, “While the proposals and services are comparable, the Paychex proposal includes a maintenance agreement on the time clocks, their infrastructure is more sophisticated and their customer service is excellent.

“Since IPS is a relatively new company, there is some uncertainty surrounding their ability to respond to issues like an established payroll processing company could. Due to these additional considerations and the lower annual process costs, the proposal from Paychex is the more appropriate proposal for the district’s needs,” Bond’s memo stated.