MFPD setting the standard for good fiscal stewardship

By Mike Anthony

An open house for the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s new No. 3 Firehouse at 4811 S. Lindbergh Blvd. is set for Saturday, April 28.

The open house is slated from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The new firehouse is the fourth constructed since 2005, starting with the No. 1 Firehouse at 3241 Lemay Ferry Road. Work on that firehouse began under a previous board, but was completed after Chairman Aaron Hilmer and Treasurer Bonnie Stegman took office in April 2005.

Under the current board — Hilmer, Stegman and Secretary Ed Ryan, who was elected in April 2007 — three more firehouses have been constructed, including the new No. 3 house.

The No. 2 Firehouse at 5434 Telegraph Road was completed in 2009 and the No. 4 Firehouse at 13117 Tesson Ferry Road was finished early last year.

All of the new firehouses are magnificent structures, enhancing the neighborhoods in which they are located. But even more remarkable is the fact that all four of the new firehouses have been constructed without a tax-rate increase or bond issue — no legacy debt whatsoever.

That’s on top of the board rolling back a 33-cent tax-rate increase that was approved by MFPD voters in November 2004, and voter approval of two tax-rate-decrease measures in April 2009 that reduced the district’s tax-rate ceiling by a total of 40 cents.

Hilmer has calculated the savings to taxpayers from the tax-rate-decrease measures at $10.5 million annually.

Contrast that with the fact taxpayers still are paying for the expansion and renovation of the district’s No. 5 firehouse and administrative headquarters on Mueller Road in Green Park. Though work was completed in 2001 — long before the current board took office — the legacy debt associated with that project continues through 2020.

Early in their tenure on the board, Hilmer and Stegman voted to refund the bond-like certificates issued to fund the project. While the district saved roughly $240,000 in interest and reduced its annual payments, the legacy debt continues until 2020.

Many governing bodies currently are struggling to balance their budgets or contemplating seeking additional funding through tax-rate increases.

But the MFPD board and administration should be applauded because the district continues to deliver excellent service to the public and provide employees with a good pay and benefits package while living within the funding provided by taxpayers.