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Voters to Decide on Tax Increase for Rock Community Fire District

The district is seeking a $10 million bond issue on the April ballot that could cost taxpayers up to 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, according to the "Arnold-Imperial Leader."

Voters in the Rock Community Fire Protection District will be deciding on a $10 million bond issue that would end up costing taxpayers between 9 and 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

The money would be used to fund improvements to Fire House No. 1 off Jeffco Boulevard in Arnold, to buy new equipment and to refinance existing debt, according to a Jan. 17 article in the Arnold-Imperial Leader. The proposition would need approval by a four-sevenths majority vote to pass.

Preliminary plans call for about $6 million of the bond issue to refinance existing debt, reports the weekly newspaper. The rest would be used for fire house improvements and new equipment, including two new firetrucks, breathing apparatus and other equipment.

Ron Harder, a district spokesman, told Patch that the district is in "dire need" of self-contained breathing apparatus, which consists of the mask/tank combo firefighters use when entering smoke-filled buildings.

"Each mask is retrofitted to each individual firefighter's face so the smoke can't get in," he said.

Harder said Fire Chief Jim Allred is working on an outline of the projects the bond issue would pay for and specific costs. Allred was unavailable for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

The district serves Arnold, Kimmswick and parts of Imperial and Barnhart.

Patch will provide additional updates as they become available.

Jack D January 18, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Rock Fire District is like a black hole - gobbling up more and more tax money. About 2005, the cost of fire service in RCFPD was $3,000,000 a year. Now the cost is about $7,500,000 a year, and growing outta control. Huge financial mismanagement.
Jim Allred January 18, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Jack, Feel free to call me or stop by and discuss your tax bill or our budget with me anytime. Propety taxes for RCFPD have DECREASED since 2005, by 21.5 cents per $100 assessed value. There is no possible way your taxes have gone from $3,000 to $7,500 for fire protection unless your propertyvalue taxed has increased dramatically. It is a fact that what you pay in fire tax saves you money on your property insurance rates. If there was no fire district you would pay more in increased property insurance than you currently do for fire protection. We have an Insurance Services Office (ISO) Public Protection Class rating of 3. That rating is the lowest in Jefferson County and translates into the lowest property insurance rates in the county. The cost of fire protection is in-fact not growing out of control. RCFPD brought in $700 less property taxes in 2012 than in 2008 while all costs continue to rise. We have tightened our budget, have a balanced budget, and are operating with 5 fewer employees than we were 2 years ago. Your statement that we have huge financial mismanagement is simply, baseless. Again, please call or stop by to discuss your concerns. We are here to simply serve you in your time of need. Jim Allred Fire Chief Rock Community Fire Protection District 3749 Telegraph Road Arnold, MO 63010 636-296-2211
Jim Allred January 18, 2013 at 03:32 PM
I see I mis-read the $3,000,000 a year vs $7,500,000 a year. I apologize. The general operating budget in 2005 was $5 million. 2013 budget is 7.4 million. A 1/2 cent sales tax was passed by the voters of this fire district by a 2-1 margin. That sales tax allowed the property taxes to be reduced by 22.5 cents per hundred of assessed value. Between then and now we have built and opened a new fire station #5, new administration building, new mechanics facility, gutted and added-on to station #3, rebuilt a new station #2, purchased two new aerial ladder trucks, purchased two new rescue-pumpers, purchased a new lightweight "mini" pumper,and added nine new firefighting positions to serve you from the new station #5. All of these things were done to provide the best service to you, reduce repsonse times, keep our ISO rating at 3, and to keep property insurance rates as low as possible. Jim Allred Fire Chief Rock Community Fire Protection District 3749 Telegraph Road Arnold, MO 63010 636-296-2211
Jim Allred January 18, 2013 at 05:01 PM
After a closer look at tax rates in 2004 v 2013, the general revenue property tax rate in 2004 to provide funds for the 2005 budget year was 82.67 cents/hundred. The tax rate in 2012 to provide funds for the 2013 budget year was 56.75 cents/hundred. That is a 25.91 cent/hundred reduction in property tax rates from 2004 - 2012. Let's look at a couple examples: $100,000 home assessed at 19% for residential, 100,000 x 0.19 = 19,000 / 100 = 190. 190 x .8267 = $157.07 paid in fire property tax in 2004 for 2005 operating revenue. 190 x .5676 = 107.85 paid in fire property tax in 2012 for 2013 operating revenue. That is a reduction of $49.23/yr in property taxes in this scenario. Anyone with questions about this bond issue is welcome to call me. Jim Allred Fire Chief Rock Community Fire Protection District 3749 Telegraph Road Arnold, MO 63010 636-296-2211
Jim Allred January 18, 2013 at 05:08 PM
The math on a $250,000 home at 19% is: 250,000 x .19 = 47,500 / 100 = 475. 475 x .8267 = $392.68 in fire property taxes paid in 2004 for 2005 operating revenue. 475 x .5676 = $269.61 paid in fire property tax in 2012 for 2013 operating revenue. That is a reduction of $123.07 in property taxes in this scenario. Commerical property is assessed at 32%. Let's look at the math on a $1,000,000 commercial property: $1,000,000 commercial property assessed at 32%, 1,000,000 x 0.32 = 320,000 / 100 = 3200. 3200 x .8267 = $2,645.44 paid in fire property tax in 2004 for 2005 operating revenue. 3200 x .5676 = 1,816.32 paid in fire property tax in 2012 for 2013 operating revenue. That is a reduction of $829.12/yr in property taxes in this scenario. Yes, it is true we also collect sales tax of 1/2 cent. That is projected to generate about 3,166,000 this year. Some of that is paid by district residents and some is paid by anyone eating or shopping in the fire district. The reason this passed by a 2-1 margin of voters is that it shifts some of the tax off property owners an onto those not otherwise paying for services of the fire district. The bond issue we have placed before the voters would have a property tax increase of appoximately 9.5 cents/hundred of assessed value. That is $18.05 a year on a $100,000 home, $45.13 on a $250,000 home, or $304/year on a $1,000,000 commercial property. Jim Allred Fire Chief 636-296-2211
Jack D January 18, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Mehlville Fire Protection District: Services: Fire + EMS Property tax rate: $0.697 Sales tax rate: none Debt: about $2,000,000 Rock Community Fire Protection District Services: Fire only (EMS services by separate district) Property tax rate: $0.5675 + $0.1000 (proposed) = $0.6675 (similar to Mehlville) Sales tax rate: 1/2 cent Debt: about $6,000,000, planning to add about $4,000,000 Rock Fire requires more from taxpayers for fire service than Mehlville requires from taxpayers for fire/EMS services. Mehlville knows how to manage financial resources. Rock Community Fire does not. Rock has been on a spending binge ever since the sales tax revenue began flowing. Fire and EMS services in Arnold and surrounding area cost twice that of the neighbors to the north.
Jim Allred January 18, 2013 at 07:29 PM
Jack, Mehlville FPD is a fine district. We work together to serve those in need. The RCFPD has provided Paramedic first responder service to our community since 1979. We are the first and only Jefferson County Fire District to do so. In 2012 we responded to 2,187 emergency medical calls with Paramedic-equipped trucks and assisted the ambulance district with advanced life support care, both on the scene and in the back of the ambulance enroute to the hospital. We responded to a total of 3,332 call for service in 2012. Our general revenue tax rate is 56.76 cents/hundred v 69.7 cents/hundred. We have taken on planned debt to grow with our community. (see projects completed in the last six years) Jim Allred Fire Chief 636-296-2211
Jack D January 19, 2013 at 03:06 AM
Fenton Fire Protection District Services: fire + EMS Property tax rate: $0.66 Sales tax rate: none Fenton is another example of a fire/EMS district operating more efficiently than our friends at Rock Community Fire Protection District. When will RCFPD learn to live within the massive resources already provided by overburdened taxpayers.
Jim Allred January 21, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Jack, There is more to the story than tax rates. Consider tax base. I suspect that both St. Louis County districts have more taxable properties. Tax income is a calculation of assessed value X tax rate. To generate a given amount it does take a higher rate when you have fewer taxable properties paying that tax, or their property values are lower. Compare the assessed value of the districts. RCFPD assessed value is ($714,290,391.00 /100) X .05676 = $4,054,312.26 in property taxes. Here is our projected income for 2013: 4,054,312.26 Property tax 3,166,000.00 Sales Tax 200,000.00 Permits & Inspections 5,000.00 Interest Income 5,000.00 Miscellaneous Income 7,430,312.26 2013 Budgeted income Employee salaries, taxes, and all benefits are projected to cost $6,102,969.32 or 82.2 of projected income. Our current debt service payment of $500,000/yr is 6.73% of our income. (compare that to most personal finances and you will see it is relatively low) Employee cost of 82.2% + the long-term debt service = 88.93% of income. The remaining 11% is left to pay for fuel, utilities, vehicle repair, professional fees, and operate five full-time fire stations. Of 14 fire districts serving Jefferson County we rank 9th in general revenue property tax rates. Jim Allred Chief 636-296-2211
Jack D January 21, 2013 at 06:58 PM
With all due respect, it feels like the information is lacking legitimacy. For example, you indicate a property tax rate of $0.5676 in your budget calculation, but tax bills show a tax rate of $0.707. Apparently you choose to overlook those portions of the tax rate related to pensions and communications, making your budget expenditure ratios off base. The revenue you fail to report is used to pay expenses too. Your statement that Rock Fire ranks 9 out of 14 for general property tax rates is also misleading. Most fire districts do not have a sales tax like Rock Fire, so comparing exclusive property tax supported districts to combination property/sales tax supported districts is essentially bogus. Besides, the sales tax collections cause the property tax rate to decline as sales tax collections increase, leading to an overall increase in revenue for the district. Taxpayers already provide generous financial support to Rock Fire. The fire district should learn to live within its means and live up to its promises made in earlier tax requests.
Jim Allred January 22, 2013 at 05:29 PM
You are correct, our total property tax rate is 70.69. Yes, it is true we also collect 1/2 sales tax. That is very clearly broken down in the above comments. We are also the lowest property tax rate of the three Jefferson County Fire Districts that collect both sales tax and property taxes. In fact, we would still remain the lowest of the three even with the proposed bond-issue tax. We have separate budgets for General Revenue, Pension and Communications so the ratios I gave are correct for the general revenue budget. 56.76 General revenue 09.33 Pension 04.60 Communications 70.69 Total Property tax rate RCFPD is in-fact living within its means. We have adopted a balanced budget for 2013. We have lived up to promises and reduced property tax rates by 25.91 cents/hundred as stated above, while completing all building projects planned. We have placed a bond issue on the April 2013 ballot to refinance exising long-term debt and thereby save $50,000 a year on that debt payment, fund future capital projects such a replacing our oldest, original fire station, replacing vital self contained breathing apparatus and breathing air compressors, and replacing the next two fire trucks which will serve the community for a minimum of twenty years into the future. As we always have, we will live within the funding our citizens provide for the sacred mission. Jim Allred Fire Chief 636-296-2211
Jim Allred January 22, 2013 at 09:55 PM
http://www.rockfire-rescue.org/houses.php
Pat L. January 27, 2013 at 12:55 AM
I don't get it. Why is the Fire Department in so much debt? Isn't the Department still trying to recover from the last Chief's $400,000.00 mistake? A couple years ago the Department was complaining about not having money but goes out and buys a brand new truck. Last year the Department was complaining about not having money but buys a $4,200.00 lawn mower. You have a secretary that makes just under a firemen and a mechanic guy that makes more than our firefighters? What is that? I know that these very hard working firemen have proposed ways to you to save money but you won't go with any of their ideas. They voted to go to a 48/96 shift like all the other departments around Jefferson and South Counties, but the Department and board won't let them. The 48/96 shift has proven to save money! Awesome lets go for a bond issue so when can get in more debt by building a new house and buying new trucks. Oh and I am sure you will give yourself and the other White shirts a raise out of this also. These firemen have not had a raise in years. I know they get to keep their benefits and that is their so called raise but you do as well. In my opinion I think the Chief and all the other White shirts make too much money and all of you don't even live in our district. This bond issue is a joke, learn how to run a business and quit spending money on things the Department doesn’t need. We don't need all the newest and fancy buildings and trucks just ones to get the job done.
Pat L. January 27, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Why did the Department change the hours at the Headquarters? I tried to call one day and I got an automated answering service, how much did that cost? I noticed that you have been answering these messages and writing messages during office hours. Do you as a Chief have that much free time during business hours to go online and blog? I would say you may be doing this on your lunch break but that would mean that you only work seven to seven and a half hours a day since the Department changed office hours to 8am – 4pm. The Board Members are to blame for this mess also. It is my understanding that the Board is supposed to do what is best for the Community. I don’t think all this spending is good for the community. I think the Department and the Board needs to take a step back and a deep breath. Then the Board and the Department along with the firefighters need to come up with better solutions than it has in the past and move forward as a TEAM! Quit the useless spending and work to get a grip on this debt. The bond issue is not the only answer. Listen to the firemen they have very good points and ways to build the Department not debt.
Jim Allred January 28, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Pat, Providing the public with information about the bond issue and district finances is very much part of my job. Correcting mis-information with facts is also my job. All of my above comments have given you and other district voters facts about our finances. Our debt is not out of control or in any way overly large. Compare your personal finances to the district finances. Anyone that has a mortgage and a car payment probably has a higher debt to income ratio than the fire district. My personal mortgage payment is 20-21% of my take-home income. The District's payment of $500,000/yr on its "mortgage" is roughly 6.7% of general revenue income. That is pretty low by comparison. The District changed the administrative hours to 8-4 from 8-4:30 to eliminate the possibility of being liable for overtime. Wage and hour regulations state a person must be completely removed of their duties during a meal period for it not to be paid time. In practice, administrative personal are not completely relieved of their duties. The automated anwsering cost nothing other than a small fee to set it up on our existing phone system. It was already a part of our phone system. I much prefer real poeple answering phones but the reality was the volume of calls was getting to a point that we needed to do it. It makes the administrative assistants more efficient.
Pat L. January 28, 2013 at 05:17 PM
1. Why would there be overtime? 2. How many people in our District get off work before 4pm? 3. Administrative personnel not completely removed from their duties? 4. So your secretaries work through their lunch? 5. Why have an automated answering service? 6. Why do your secretaries make $50k per year? 7. Why does your Mechanic make $58k per year? 8. Why does your Mechanic have a $3k per year uniform allowance? 9. Why does the Department let administrative personnel take vehicles home when they don’t live in district? 10. Why not let the firefighters go to a 48/96 shift when the voted for it?
Jim Allred January 28, 2013 at 09:05 PM
1. Why would there be overtime? 8 to 4 = 8 hours x 5 = 40 hours, 8 to 430 = 8.5 hours x 5 = 42.5 hours = overtime 2. How many people in our District get off work before 4pm? I don't know. How many get off before 4:30? If anyone needs to conduct business with the district they can call and make arrangments and we will work with them to meet their needs. We have not had complaints expressed to us on the 1/2 hour difference. We will always try to meet the needs of those we serve. 3. Administrative personnel not completely removed from their duties? No. They routinely answer phones, work through lunch and serve those who come in during lunch times. I see them get up from their lunch or eat at their desks on a regular basis. Some are also subject to being called to fires and code enforcement duties. 4. So your secretaries work through their lunch? Yes as stated above. Hence the 8-4 rather than 8-4:30. 5. Why have an automated answering service? To make the administrative assistants more efficient. They no longer have to answer calls for everyone in the department. Those calling can get directly to those they are calling. Please call or stop by to discuss these matters with me personally. Jim Allred Fire Chief 636-296-2211
Jim Allred January 28, 2013 at 09:28 PM
6. Why do your secretaries make $50k per year? Because that is what the Board of Directors has approved. 7. Why does your Mechanic make $58k per year? Because that is what the Board of Directors has approved. 8. Why does your Mechanic have a $3k per year uniform allowance? The mechanic does not have a 3K uiform allowance. The mechanic has the same allowance as all other personnel. The 3K you refer to is for a uniform service that is common to repair shops and covers other things like floor matts, soiled uniforms, shop towels, etc. It is common for a repair shop to contract those things out. 9. Why does the Department let administrative personnel take vehicles home when they don’t live in district? Because they are subject to responding to emergency calls and fires on their off-duty times. Of 8 administrative personnel assigned vehicles, two live outside the district. Both of those live within a couple miles of district borders and can get to some areas of the district faster than those that do live in the district. 10. Why not let the firefighters go to a 48/96 shift when they voted for it? Who reading this gets to vote on their work hours? Employers set work hours to best meet the mission at hand. Every firefighter here signed up to work 24 hour shifts. The management staff does not believe it is in the best interest of those we serve to have firefighters working 48 hour shifts. Jim Allred Fire Chief 636-296-2211
Pat L. January 28, 2013 at 10:48 PM
1. That makes no since. If you have 2 secretaries they can take turns eating lunch. 2. Not too many people get off before 4p or 4:30p. What not have regular business hours like 9a-5p or 9a-6p with alternating lunches? Now you have a complaint! 3. I understand they get called out on emergency calls that’s their job. 4. Read statement 1. 5. Having an automated answering service should allow administration to leave duties for lunch. 6 & 7. The Board needs to re-think this. 8. That's a lot of money for uniforms, shop towels, matts, ect... 9. I don't care if they live a 1/2 out of district, it's still out of the district and it shouldn't be allowed. 10. I know a lot of people that get to vote on their work time and the days they work. One of the missions at hand is to save money and this shift has proven that fact. I am one of those who is served by RCFPD, and if these firemen are trying to save the community money I think it should be tried out for a year.
Bryan Menke January 29, 2013 at 05:05 PM
I think if people really stand behind their opinions on here that they should attach their full names to them. This is my opinion. Bryan Menke
Lindsay Toler January 29, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Chief Allred, I just wanted to thank you for answering all our questions and being so accessible here! Thanks for the information. -LT

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