MFPD board approves 2014 budget with $627,000 surplus

Tax revenues dip $420,000 with drop in assessed value

By Mike Anthony

The Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to adopt a 2014 budget that projects a surplus of more than $627,000.

The budget anticipates revenues of $19,526,104 with projected expenditures of $18,898,706 — a surplus of $627,308.

In September, the Board of Directors discussed a preliminary 2014 budget and voted to establish a 2013 “blended” tax rate of 70.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Projected revenues for 2014 remain unchanged from the preliminary budget, while anticipated expenditures decreased by $205,600.

The district’s 2013 budget projects revenues of $20,145,683 with anticipated expenditures of $19,363,775 — a surplus of $781,908.

Chief Financial Officer Brian Bond told the board Dec. 18, “… Subsequent to that review of the preliminary budget, we’ve received some final information regarding health insurance renewals, workers’ compensation premiums, property/casualty insurance premiums. We’ve also had a few changes in staffing …”

For 2013, the fire district’s total assessed valuation decreased to $2,227,618,170 from 2012’s total assessed valuation of $2,298,114,885, according to Bond.

Regarding revenues, he said, “… As we discussed back in September, with the substantial decrease in the assessment of the property values, we are looking at a pretty substantial reduction in the tax revenue that will be available to support the operations and capital expenditures for 2014. Looking at the tax rates with no voluntary reductions, (they) will generate $16.4 million of tax revenue, which is a net $420,000 decrease over the prior year’s budget …”

Another decrease in revenue includes a non-recurring Federal Emergency Management Agency grant of $340,000 for the purchase of self-contained breathing apparatus devices for firefighters.

“We are looking to transfer $1.3 million to the capital fund to address specific capital expenditures in 2014,” he said. “Some of the highlights there would include $650,000 for a pumper, $180,000 for an ambulance, a $100,000 reserve for future construction. We had hoped initially with the preliminary budget to have $150,000, but I’m looking at the actual figures — we’ve been limited to only reserving $100,000.

“(We’re) also reserving $105,000 for future fire apparatus. Again, that was an item we had initially hoped to reserve $150,000, but we’ve had to reduce that one as well.”

In addition, $350,000 will be transferred to the pension fund to address current shortfalls and increase reserves for future underfunded disability payments, according to Bond.

Regarding expenditures, the CFO said, “The salary expense that is projected for 2014 reflects a decrease of $113,000 over 2013. That’s primarily due to the attrition of three employees … In addition, there are no increases to rates of pay scheduled for 2014 other than those employees that will have the natural progression of a step increase as they move from one level to the next within their first few years of employment …”

Because of the attrition of three employees, unscheduled overtime has been in-creased by $50,000 so the district can continue to operate the sixth ambulance.

The cost of the district’s workers’ compensation increased by $132,000 based on its new premium, according to Bond. For 2014, the cost of health benefits for district employees will increase by $13,035.

In addition, a total of $287,000 will be used for debt service on certificates of participation issued in 2000 to fund the expansion and renovation of the district’s No. 5 firehouse and administrative headquarters.

“… The budget as it stands, forecasts in total $627,000 of excess of revenue over expenditures,” Bond said. “That excess is allocated to the three major funds — $283,000 will be funding future disability payment obligations, $262,000 is funding future unknown dispatching-related expenses, and in the general fund, there’s an excess of $71,000 that will be used to address unforeseen expenses or needs that may arise in 2014.”