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Hochschild, Bloom & Co. OK'd by fire district for 3-year auditing contract

A three-year contract with Hochschild, Bloom & Co. for auditing services recently was approved by the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

The three-member board — Chairman Tom O'Driscoll, Treas-urer Dan Ottoline and Secretary David Gralike — voted unanimously last week to approve the contract with Hochschild, Bloom & Co., which has been performing auditing services for the district since 1994, according to district Comptroller Jeff Geisler, a former Hochschild, Bloom & Co. employee.

Under the three-year pact, the fire district will pay Hochschild, Bloom & Co. $11,300 in 2003 and $12,500 in both 2004 and 2005. In 2002, the district paid $10,800.

Geisler told the board that cost increases are "mostly from Consumer Price Index increases." The cost increases also include implementation of a recent government regulation, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement 34, which changes the financial statements from the cash-based statements to accrual-based statements.

Upon Geisler's recommendation to approve the contract, the three board members voted to do so without any discussion.

When asked later by the Call, Geisler said that he recommended approval because Hochschild, Bloom & Co. has more governmental experience than any other firm in the St. Louis area, other than a large firm whose fees would be about twice as much. Hochschild, Bloom & Co. performs audits for the city of Green Park, the city of Fenton, and probably more than two or three dozen municipal bodies in the St. Louis area, he added.

No other auditing firms were considered at this time, Geisler told the Call.

O'Driscoll told the Call that he based his decision on the services that Hochschild, Bloom & Co. has provided the district for a number of years.

"They've always done very comprehensive reports that I found to be first rate," O'Driscoll added.

When asked about Geisler's status as a former Hochschild, Bloom & Co. employee who had been involved in auditing the fire district in the past, O'Driscoll responded that Geisler has been an employee of the district for only a short time — since August 2002 — while Hochschild, Bloom & Co. has been the district's auditing firm since 1994.

"Jeff's opinion is certainly accepted and reviewed, but it's just one factor of a number of other factors," O'Driscoll said. "Not to say that his opinion isn't valued, but it just wasn't an important factor in my decision."

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