South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

MFPD’s net position continues to be strong, audit report finds

Auditor says directors’ fees probably ‘lowest’ in county
MFPDs net position continues to be strong, audit report finds

The financial condition of the Mehlville Fire Protection District continues to be strong, with its net position increasing by nearly $500,000 during fiscal 2015.

The Board of Directors recently voted unanimously to approve the district’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, audited by Hochschild, Bloom & Co., for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2015.

Robert Offerman of Hochschild, Bloom & Co. told the board that the district received an “unmodified opinion” on its 2015 financial statements — the best possible opinion that can be given.

“… The district does an excellent job with its financial reporting,” he told the Board of Directors.

The fire district earned a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association for its 2014 financial statements. This is the 17th consecutive year the district has received this recognition.

In 2015, the district’s total net position — total assets — increased $499,119 to $37,135,334 from $36,636,215 in 2014.

That amounts to a 1.36-percent increase, according to the report.

“The change in net position is primarily due to the daily operations in the current year,” the report stated. “Overall revenues increased $795,195 from (the) prior year and expenses decreased $409,323.”

Of the total assets, $15,839,731 represents the district’s investment in capital assets, net of related debt; $2,354,000 is restricted for dispatching; and the balance of $18,941,603 will be used to meet the district’s ongoing obligations to citizens and creditors, the report states.

At the May 11 meeting, Offerman outlined Statement No. 68 from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, or GASB, and its effect on the reporting of the district’s defined-benefit pension plan, which currently has 26 participants. No active employees participate in that plan.

As a result of GASB Statement No. 68, he said the district’s 2014 financial statements were restated to include a nearly $746,000 increase in the liability for the defined-benefit pension plan.

“The pension liability for the defined-pension plan, even though it’s frozen, there’s a liability. In the past under GASB Statement 25, that liability was just measured based on what the actuaries said you had to put in versus what you funded. Now the liability is an actual liability (and) has been recorded on the systems of the district’s financial statements …,” Offerman said.

For 2015, the district reported current and noncurrent liabilities totaling nearly $10 million.

“Of that $10 million, $5.3 million is from the pension. So about 53 percent of your liabilities is there from the defined-benefit pension plan that has been frozen,” he said, adding that if the pension liability had not been recorded, “your liabilities really would have went down by $1.2 million …”

Besides the pension liability, the district reported a decrease of $308,278 in debt due within one year and other long-term debt for certificates of participation, or COPs, issued in May 2000 and compensated absences.

A total of $3.61 million in COPs were issued in 2000 to fund the expansion and renovation of the district’s No. 5 firehouse and administrative headquarters on Mueller Road in Green Park.

In July 2005, the Board of Directors voted to refund the COPs issued in 2000 with a savings of more than $240,000 in interest payments. As of Dec. 31, the district owed $1,305,000 on the COPs.

The district’s liability for accrued vacation totaled $1,015,785 at the end of 2015, a decrease of $19,359.

The district’s liability for accrued sick leave totaled $736,710 at the end of 2014, a reduction of $53,919.

In 2011, the district reduced its liability for accrued sick leave by $1,487,347 — to $897,897 from $2,385,244. That liability was reduced through attrition and a $1.1 million payout to employees.

The report highlighted several upgrades in service during 2015, including:

• “2015 represented the second full year after the district transitioned to a new emergency dispatching center and recognized substantial technological upgrades related to Advanced Vehicle Locator — AVL — and Mobile Data Terminal — MDT. AVL service utilizes global-positioning-system technology and allows the closest available unit to be dispatched based upon location, versus using a system of designated areas of response. MDT service provides electronically transmitted, real-time patient-information updates to the crews while responding to the call.”

• “The district continues to purchase a new ambulance each year and provides the largest ambulance service of all fire districts in St. Louis County. 2015 represented the third full year of the district’s modified-staffing model to provide a sixth ambulance in service, improving response times for emergency medical services.”

• “The district’s child safety seat program implemented in 2006 has installed over 1,800 safety seats at no cost to residents.”

• The district’s blended tax rate of 70 cents per $100 of assessed valuation was the lowest of all county fire districts for the 10th consecutive year.

During 2015, board Chairman Aaron Hilmer was paid $1,725, board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman was paid $1,829 and board Secretary Ed Ryan was paid $1,759 — a total of $5,313.

“Actually, this district probably has the lowest directors’ fees of most all the districts in St. Louis County …,” Offerman said.

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