MFPD’s financial strategy win-win for district, public

By Mike Anthony

Premises to help formulate the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s preliminary 2014 budget were discussed last week by the district’s Board of Directors.

As outlined by Chief Brian Hendricks and Chief Financial Officer Brian Bond, they plan to build the district’s preliminary 2014 budget using the same principles that have resulted in sound stewardship of taxpayer dollars. For example, the district plans to continue to fund capital purchases on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Proposed capital expenditures for 2014 include $650,000 for the purchase of a pumper and $170,000 for the purchase of an ambulance.

Furthermore, Bond told the board Aug. 7, “… I’d like to begin putting away some amounts in reserve, $150,000 for apparatus replacement, as well as $150,000 for any future engine house renovations the board might like to make in the upcoming years …”

Since 2005, four new firehouses have been built, 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 first elected in April 2007 — three more firehouses have been constructed, including the No. 2 Firehouse at 5434 Telegraph Road in 2009, the No. 4 Firehouse at 13117 Tesson Ferry Road in 2011 and the No. 3 Firehouse at 4811 S. Lindbergh Blvd. in 2012.

All of the firehouses have been constructed without a tax-rate increase or bond issue — no legacy debt whatsoever.

In fact, the only legacy debt the fire district currently has involves certificates of participation, or COPs, that were issued in May 2000 to fund the expansion and renovation of the district’s No. 5 firehouse and administrative headquarters on Mueller Road in Green Park. The then-board issued COPs totaling $3.61 million.

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.

As of Dec. 31, the fire district owed $1,985,000 on the COPs.

Given that remaining debt, it’s easy to see the pay-as-you-go strategy has been a win-win for the fire district and for district taxpayers.