MFPD board establishes ’12 tax rate at 70.7 cents

Board will consider approval of 2013 budget in December

By Mike Anthony

A 2012 “blended” tax rate of 70.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation was approved last week by the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

Board members voted 2-0 Sept. 27 to approve the 2012 tax rate. Board Chairman Aaron Hilmer was absent for the board’s open meeting, but attended a subsequent closed session.

No residents spoke during a public hearing on the proposed 2012 tax rates.

The “blended” tax rate is not levied, but used for state calculations. The 2012 tax rate is 1 cent more than the current rate of 69.7 cents per $100. The 2011 tax rate included a voluntary 1-cent reduction in the district’s alarm fund levy.

The 2012 tax rates for the general, alarm and pension funds are: 62.5 cents, 4.4 cents and 3.8 cents, respectively. In April 2011, district voters approved Proposition S, which consolidated the district’s general fund and ambulance fund into one fund and eliminated the ambulance fund.

Mehlville’s total assessed valuation increased by nearly $23.1 million over 2011 — to $2,298,114,885 from $2,275,040,010, Chief Financial Officer Brian Bond said.

Bond also discussed the district’s preliminary 2013 budget, which projects revenues of more than $20.1 million with anticipated expenditures of more than $19.2 million. The proposed 2013 budget was developed with the premise the board would not voluntary roll back any of the district’s tax rates, he said.

“… We’re not obligated to take a voluntary reduction this year even though we did take a voluntary reduction last year,” Bond told the board. “And that’s not true this year. If we choose a voluntary reduction this year, we will be obligated to abide by that voluntary reduction again next year.

“So it’s important that we understand that this year, in a non-reassessment year, any decision the board would choose to reduce any of these rates, we would be obligated to live with that decision again in the following year as well. By not taking a voluntary reduction this year, that doesn’t preclude us from taking a voluntary reduction in the following year …”

Approval of a final 2013 budget will be considered by the board in December.

The preliminary 2013 budget anticipates revenues of $20,145,683 with projected expenditures of $19,288,775 — a surplus of $856,908.

The fire protection district’s current budget projects revenues of $19,203,193 with anticipated expenditures of $18,546,280 — a surplus of $656,913.

Other premises Bond outlined in the preliminary 2013 budget include:

• A total of $1.2 million will be transferred to the capital fund for capital expenditures, including $650,000 for a new pumper and $170,000 for a new ambulance.

• A total of $350,000 will be transferred to the pension fund to address current shortfalls and begin reserving at least $300,000 per year for future underfunded disability payments.

• Salaries reflect an increase of $176,000, including the attrition of three employees, elimination of a deputy chief-training officer position and a 2-percent increase for certain positions.

• Unscheduled overtime will remain at $500,000 to reflect the current unscheduled overtime necessary to operate the district’s sixth ambulance seven days a week.

• Medical insurance premiums are projected to increase 10 percent, while dental and vision insurance premiums are anticipated to increase 5 percent.

• A total of $291,000 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 preliminary 2013 budget projects a starting fund balance on Jan. 1, 2013, of $17,900,786 and an ending fund balance on Dec. 31, 2013, of $18,757,695.

Voters in April 2009 overwhelmingly approved two propositions reducing the fire district’s tax-rate ceiling by a total of 40 cents.

Proposition 1 asked whether the district’s general-fund tax-rate ceiling should be permanently reduced by 36 cents per $100 of assessed of valuation while Proposition 2 asked whether the district’s pension-fund tax-rate ceiling should be permanently reduced by 4 cents per $100.

Approval of the two propositions has resulted in the district not being able to collect nearly $10.5 million in tax revenue annually, according to Hilmer.