Indian Hills fire board to review financial policies

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2014 budget dips into reserves to balance ledger

By Sandy Barnes

After approving the 2014 budget for the Indian Hills Fire Protection District on Dec. 11, board members decided to examine their financial policies in the coming year to ensure accountability and transparency.

In light of what has happened in the Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District, board member Scott Kellar said a review is advisable for the Indian Hills department.

Former Inter-Canyon fire chief David MacBean faces embezzlement charges in connection with the theft of $643,000 from his district, and is awaiting an arraignment hearing in Jefferson County court.

“We need to review our policies and make sure things don’t go awry,” said board member Paul Pettit.

“We need to clarify who has a credit card,” Kellar said.

A revised policy needs to be written for anyone who might be associated with the district, not just present staff and officers, said Anita Fritz, budget officer for Indian Hills.

Kellar also said the board needs to review overspending this year.

“We need to have a discussion about priorities,” he said.

For the second consecutive year, the Indian Hills Fire Protection District is coping with a budget deficit and using its fund balance to make up the difference.

The 2014 budget, which board members adopted Dec. 11, includes $292,955 in total revenues and $390,138 in expenditures. To offset the difference, $97,183 in general fund reserves will be used. This year the district’s reserve fund balance dropped from $466,391 at the beginning of the year to a projected $375,175 on Dec. 31.

Based on an assessed valuation of $20,463,000 in the district, the 12-mill tax levy is expected to generate $245,555 in revenue next year. Additional revenues are anticipated from ambulance fees, interest income and specific ownership taxes.

For the Indian Hills district, the list of expenses includes $185,349 for total overhead, which includes payroll and benefits to employees, and a total of $104,200 for fire operations. An additional $100,589 is in the budget for interest and principal on apparatus leasing dating from 2009.

There is no mileage reimbursement for volunteers in the department. A pension contribution of $15,000 for them is included in the 2014 budget, as it was this year.

Also, there are no line items in the 2013 budget for capital expenditures.

A bond issue to build a new fire station, which could have doubled the district mill levy, failed in the November election.

The fire board is planning to look at ways to repair the 57-year-old station, which has an aging roof and other issues. Pettit said he received a ballpark estimate of $75,000 to replace the roof — a project he said that would go out for competitive bid.

Indian Hills Fire Chief Emery Carson said he is still working with the Jefferson County Emergency Authority to gain approval for dispatching calls through the Evergreen Fire Protection District, rather than the county. The switch would initially cost the district about $6,000, he said.

“We’re a test ground for this,” Carson said. “We’ll be one of the easiest districts to move to Evergreen,” he added.

The Indian Hills district also upgraded its communications system this year at a cost of about $20,000.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.