MFPD board sets ’14 tax rate at 71 cents per $100

Board to consider final OK of ’15 budget in December

By Mike Anthony

The Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to establish a 2014 blended tax rate of 71 cents per $100 of assessed valuation after reviewing a preliminary 2015 budget.

The blended tax rate is not levied, but used for state calculations. The approved 2014 tax rate is two-tenths of a cent more than the current blended rate of 70.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The 2014 tax rates for the general, alarm and pension funds are: 62.5 cents, 4.6 cents and 3.9 cents, respectively.

The 2013 tax rates for the general, alarm and pension funds are: 62.5 cents, 4.5 cents and 3.8 cents, respectively.

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

The district preliminary 2015 budget projects expenditures of $19,022,591 with anticipated revenues of $19,569,952 — a surplus of $547,361.

Mehlville’s current budget projects expenditures of $18,898,706 with anticipated revenues of $19,526,014 — a surplus of $627,308.

For 2014, the fire district’s total assessed valuation increased to $2,240,718,074 from last year’s total assessed valuation of $2,227,618,170.

Chief Financial Officer Brian Bond told the board Sept. 29 that all state statutes had been met in preparing the tax rates.

“Part of the statute requires that, you know, we’re looking at the budget along with the preparation of the tax rates,” Bond said. “The reason is that in some organizations, they are not actually levying their tax at the tax-rate ceiling and so therefore to ensure that they aren’t imposing a tax burden on the taxpayers that isn’t necessary to support the operation of the organization, the preliminary budget should be accompanying the establishing or setting of the tax rates in order to make sure the amount is warranted.

“Our organization is in a position where we do actually levy the highest amount that we can pursue and therefore, all those funds are necessary for the operations of our budget …”

Work on formulating the preliminary budget began in August, Bond noted.

“… We met with the chief officers. We looked at rolling, three-year averages. We looked at itemized, specific needs for 2015, and these are the tax rates that will generate the tax revenue for 2014 that will be funding our 2015 operations and budget …,” he said.

Regarding the district’s 2014 assessed valuation, Bond said, “There was minimal movement in the assessed values. The 2014 assessed values reflect a $13.1 million increase over the prior year.”

Of that increase, $3.1 million was from real estate and $10 million was from personal property.

As for the tax rates, Bond said, “We are proposing that no voluntary reductions in the tax rates take place for 2014. Not electing a voluntary reduction this year does not preclude the board from electing a voluntary reduction in future years.

“However, and this is critical because it is an even year (2014), if we would elect a voluntary reduction in an even year, you would be bound to that reduction … next year as well.”

In a memo to the board, the chief financial officer outlined premises used to formulate the preliminary 2015 budget, including:

• A total of $1 million will be transferred to the capital fund for capital expenditures, including $300,000 reserved for a future pumper, $180,000 for an ambulance, $100,000 reserved for a future aerial apparatus and $100,000 reserved for future engine house renovations.

• A total of $350,000 will be transferred to the pension fund to address current-year shortfalls in the pension fund and increase reserves for future underfunded disability payments.

• Salaries for 2015 reflect step increases, but do not include any other increases.

• Unscheduled overtime has increased to $700,000 to reflect the current unscheduled overtime needed to operate a sixth ambulance. A total of $500,000 was budgeted this year for unscheduled overtime for the sixth ambulance.

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

• A total of $289,000 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.

“Overall, the 2015 budget forecasts that the tax revenue will be about $93,000 more, and due to those projected increases in tax revenue, offset by a couple of other variations, in total the 2015 preliminary budget forecasts a $44,000 increase in revenue over the 2014 budget,” Bond said.

The preliminary 2015 budget projects a $124,000 increase in expenditures over the current year, he noted.

Overall, Bond said, “The 2015 preliminary budget forecasts $547,000 of excess of revenue over expenditures. Of this $547,000, $253,000 is going to be funding the future disability payment obligations, $270,000 is going to fund future unknown dispatching-related expenses, and in the general fund, we will have $7,000 of excess of revenue over expenses.

“So essentially in the general fund, we’re operating flat. These results demonstrate the need to fix the tax rates at the tax-rate ceiling for 2014 in all three tax levies to address the current operating capital needs and account for any unseen expenses …”

The board will consider approval of the final 2015 budget in December.