MFPD board OKs budget with 1.5-percent pay hike

Fire district will pursue grant for purchase of new Lifepaks

By Mike Anthony

A 2013 budget that provides a 1.5-percent, across-the-board salary increase for employees was approved last week by the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

The three-member board voted unanimously Dec. 19 to approve the district’s 2013 budget that projects more than $20.1 million in revenues with anticipated expenditures of roughly $19.3 million.

Chief Financial Officer Brian Bond noted the board discussed a preliminary 2013 budget in September when it voted to set the district’s 2012 tax rates.

“… There’s been very few changes compared to the document that you saw in September …,” he said.

The approved 2013 budget projects revenues of $20,145,683 with anticipated expenditures of $19,363,775 — a surplus of $781,908. The preliminary 2013 budget anticipated revenues of $20,145,683 with projected expenditures of $19,288,775 — a surplus of $856,908.

One change from the preliminary budget is the amount of a transfer to the equipment fund from the general fund to cover the purchase of new Lifepaks, which are defibrillators/heart monitors.

“… We’ve revised the amount to transfer from the general fund to the equipment fund. Instead of $1.2 million, we’ve increased that to $1.4 million,” Bond told the board. “The reason that we have increased that is anticipating spending approximately $210,000 on new Lifepaks.

“We are pursuing a grant, but in the event that the grant is not given to the district, we wanted to make sure that we have properly accounted for the potential expenditure that could take place …,” he added.

Chief Brian Hendricks said, “We’ve looked at this piece and added this line item to the budget because these units are eight years old … When it comes to the majority of EMS operations, it’s probably the single-most important piece of equipment we have. The units are becoming more expensive to repair …”

District officials are optimistic about receiving the grant, the chief said.

“We just feel that it’s very important to replace this piece of equipment,” he said, noting “technology has changed significantly in the eight years since” St. Anthony’s Medical Center donated the Lifepaks to the district.

“So we want to just make this commitment that we can bring this technology to the taxpayers regardless of if we get the grant or not,” he said.

Besides the Lifepaks, among other capital expenditures proposed for 2013 are $700,000 for a new pumper and $170,000 for a new ambulance.

Salaries for 2013 reflect an increase of $86,000 over 2012 and include the attrition of three employees, the elimination of a deputy-chief-training-officer position, a 1.5-percent, across-the-board salary increase for employees and “other modest adjustments that will be presented to the board for approval at a later time,” Bond wrote in a Dec. 17 memo to the board.

Regarding the pay increase, Hendricks said, “In this 2013 budget, I want to make the board aware that we are talking about a 1.5-percent increase across-the-board for all our employees. But we’re also talking about equalizing the pay for the field training officers … We have two field training officers that make one pay scale and we have a third that makes a different pay scale that is compensated significantly less. This budget reflects equalizing the pay for all three (field training officers).”

The 2013 budget also includes the stabilization of other pay scales.

“… We have frozen the pay of a large group,” Hendricks said. “A considerable group of employees has been frozen for years prior, and we are now catching up where the group that has been frozen … (is) going to be surpassed. We have fire medics that are going to surpass our lieutenants. So what we have done is we have put together different pay scales, equalized our engineer fire medics and our lieutenants …There is going to be a small contingent of employees that will receive a little more than a 1.5 percent raise, and those are the two areas they’re going to fall in …”

Regarding the projected surplus, Bond said, “In total, the budget forecasts $782,000 of excess revenue over expenditures, of which $319,000 will be used to fund future disability payment obligations, $251,000 is set aside for future unknown dispatching-related expenses, leaving really only $199,000 of excess in the general fund to address any unforeseen expenses or needs that may arise in the year 2013.

“When you consider the size of our budget, that we have expenses in excess of $19 million, only having $199,000 not accounted for, we’ve done a good job of managing everything. This will potentially address any unforeseen expenses that we’re not aware of at this time …”