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Amended fire district budget reduces expenditures by $300,000


Staff Reporter

An amended fiscal 2003 budget that reduces projected revenues and transfers by $50,000 and expenditures by more than $300,000 recently was approved by the Mehl-ville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

Board Chairman Tom O'Driscoll and Treasurer Dan Ottoline Sr. voted last week to approve the amended fiscal 2003 budget that projects $18,501,891 in total revenues and transfers and $17,900,106 in total expenditures for a surplus of $601,785.

The original budget, which was unanimously approved in December, projected $50,000 more in total revenues and transfers — $18,551,891 — and $307,254 more in total expenditures — $18,207,360 — for a surplus of $344,531.

The fiscal 2003 budget is the first balanced budget in the district's recent history. Budgets approved in previous years included deficit spending in which the district dipped into its reserve funds to stay in the black.

The amended budget projects a fund balance of $47,040,690 at the end of 2003, while the original budget anticipated a fund balance $46,438,905. With the amended budget, the general fund is calculated to have about 10 months of reserve left at the end of the year, the ambulance fund 8.75 months left, the alarm fund 30 months, and the pension fund has nearly 191 months of reserve left at the end of 2003.

The district's current tax rate is 92 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. In August 2002, the district brought a 25-cent tax-rate increase to a public vote for the second time in 16 months. The proposal failed by more than 63 percent of the vote.

During the Aug. 18 meeting, district Comptroller Jeff Geisler told O'Driscoll and Ottoline that the decrease in revenue is attributed to overbudgeting revenue from inspection fees. He said he had anticipated the revenue would be much higher, but compared to last year at this time, the district is bringing in much less. The line item budget was decreased $50,000 — to $215,000 from $265,000.

In addition, miscellaneous revenue was increased by $7,704 as a result of workers' compensation refund the district received for having fewer employees on the payroll, Geisler explained. Seven employees retired from the district in November 2002.

The district's transfer item from the general fund to the pension fund was reduced by $46,500, from a negative 118,500 to a negative $72,000. Geisler said the originally budgeted amount was to make up for the minimum pension contribution re-quirements, but that the district does not have to contribute as much now based on the actuarial report.

The net effect of the revenue and transfer amendments is an increase of $4,204 to total $10,272,304.

For expenditures, the amendment in-creased the general fund's salaries line by $16,123 and the ambulance fund's salaries line by $5,089.

"The reason for this increase is one less manpower as a result of a retirement that we had at Dec. 31, 2002, and what experiences have told us, when we go from an 85 manning down to 84 manning, we do have to experience more overtime," Geisler said.

Individuals who are sick and are not able to take their vacation still get paid for their vacation, he said, whereas "they would normally just be off and somebody would fill in for them, but we actually have additional outflow and we pay them that vacation time out so that the effect of that is $16,000.

Also under personnel expenditures, the payroll taxes increased at 8 percent of the salary adjustment by $1,200 in the general fund and $400 in the ambulance fund.

Finally, personnel expenditures de-creased under the employee welfare line because the district originally budgeted a 7.3 percent increase in health insurance from 2002; however after receiving bids for health insurance, the district switched from Group Health Plan to United HealthCare early in the year and incurred a 1.5 percent increase instead. The budget amendment reduced the employee welfare amount by $68,795 in the general fund and $23,305 in the ambulance fund. The new budgeted amount on employee welfare is $1,059,205 in the general fund and $480,695 in the ambulance fund.

The amended general fund's salaries total $7,189,123 and the ambulance fund's salaries total $3,228,089. Both funds' salaries together total $10,417,212. With holiday pay, payroll taxes, employee welfare, 401(a) contribution and clothing allowance for both funds, personnel for the district totals $8,971,208 in the general fund and $4,023,514 in the ambulance fund, totaling $12,994,722 — nearly 73 percent of the total expenditures.

Under the budget category of administration, directors' fees were reduced in the amended budget by $1,320 in the general fund and $440 in the ambulance fund for a total budget of $15,840. Geisler said this is a result of having fewer board meetings this year. The board had been meeting regularly on a weekly basis until O'Driscoll suffered major injuries in a hit-and-run accident when he was riding on his motorcycle on the afternoon of April 27.

In addition, Joseph Gaterman took the oath of office as the third director on April 19 after being elected to office April 8. Gaterman, who was appointed the board's treasurer then, could not attend meetings because he was too ill, and he lost his battle with cancer April 29.

Since then, Ottoline has been attending less frequently scheduled meetings in the district's boardroom with O'Driscoll via teleconference calls. On Monday night, O'Driscoll and Ottoline appointed David Gralike of Oakville, a former Mehlville Board of Education member, to serve until next April's election.

The amended budget's maintenance and grounds line item was under budgeted, Geisler said, so the amendment increased in the general fund by $3,300 and $2,500 in the ambulance fund to total $17,100.

The amendment also increased the election expense budget by $7,320 in the general fund and $2,440 in the ambulance fund to total $34,760 for expenses regarding the April Board of Directors election in which Gaterman was elected.

Geisler explained, "The reason for that increase is because the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District had an item that was supposed to be on the ballot back in April, however they withdrew from the ballot and as a result, those costs, the costs had to be shared amongst the other organizations that had items on the ballot and it in-creased our costs as a result of them withdrawing."

The professional fees item increased in the amended budget by $17,542 in the general fund and $17,541 in the ambulance fund for a total amended budget of $456,083 in professional fees. Geisler said the increased expenses resulted from the Health Insurance Portability and Account-ability Act plus exploratory services for the No. 1 engine house relocation.

The board voted during a closed session June 30 to engage Dickinson Hussman architects to review design changes for the No. 1 house in the anticipation of the Misouri Department of Transportation's changes to the intersection of Lemay Ferry Road and Lindbergh Boulevard. The district's contract cost with Dickinson Huss-man is not to exceed $9,350.

Training and education expenses were reduced in the general fund amendment by $5,000 as a result of no convention fees for Fire Marshal Ed Berkel because he now sits on the International Code Council's board and can attend at no charge. The budget for training and education now is $76,285 in the general fund, and with the ambulance fund it totals $107,780.

The general fund's miscellaneous item increased by $1,000 to total $1,800 in both the general and ambulance funds. "This has to do with some repairs to a lawn and a mailbox that was incurred from one of our vehicles on call," Geisler said.

Office furniture and equipment de-creased by $6,900 in the general fund and $2,200 in the ambulance fund because of savings from a copier and fax machine purchased, Geisler said.

Both funds together total $5,000 in the amended budget.

Finally, the district decreased projected expenditures by $1,331 in the general fund and $1,060 in the ambulance fund for computers for an amended computer budget of $31,041 with both funds.

Geisler said this change resulted from savings from a new tape drive and back up tapes, comptroller computer and some postponed monitors in exchange for new computers in 2004.

"As a result of these adjustments on the general fund as far as total expenditures are, we are decreasing the total expenditures by $42,959," Geisler said. "The net benefit to the general fund of this amendment is in the positive of $47,163. As a result of this the amended budget, the estimated fund balance at the end of the year should be approximately $8,625,598, which roughly, the general fund has 10 months in reserve."

For the ambulance fund, Geisler said, "The net effect of this amendment ... is a decrease in expenditures of $152,955. The net effect of this amendment on the ambulance fund will be a betterment of $181,023, bringing the estimated fund balance to $3,686,614, which equates out to 8.75 months of reserve ..."

Geisler added at the end of his presentation that he anticipated another amendment later in the year.

He said he anticipated some overtime savings, but wanted to wait until he got "a better handle on some of the other numbers."

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