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Monett Rural fire department members OK dues hike

Friday, December 18, 2009

During the most recent Broadway Nights, Monett Rural Fire Association members had a table at Fourth and Broadway selling tickets for their fundraising chili supper, set for Jan. 23, 2010, and chances for a .243 rifle. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
New rates for membership and new signs will be coming from the Monett Rural Fire Association following its annual membership meeting on Dec. 5.

Financial reports show the association has run a deficit for the past two years. With membership down from 1,200 to around 800, the organization ran a $2,500 deficit for 2008 and $3,045.95 for the year that ended on Nov. 30.

Several steps have been taken to address both income and money management. Membership dues, the main source of income, have not increased in about six years, according to Board President Paul Wimsatt.

With expenses unlikely to fall, the membership voted to raise membership dues by $10 a year, putting the new amount at $70. The size of the dues increase was calculated to cover annual expenses, Wimsatt said, rather than build any reserves or cover past deficits.

Because the new fiscal year began before the meeting, the new rate will not go into effect until Dec. 1, 2010.

Door-to-door canvass

To address income issues in the short term, Wimsatt announced that firefighters and board members will undertake a door-to-door canvass. Those who are not members may not understand the need to join the organization to get fire protection, Wimsatt said. People move into the area, find a membership sign and number on the property and may wrongly assume the land is covered without the need to pay annual dues.

To identify who has membership, the board decided to change all the member signs. New blue signs with new numbers will be issued as members renew this year. Stickers will be issued to place on the signs annually to show membership is up to date, similar to license plate stickers, Wimsatt said.

Legislation sought

In addition, Wimsatt reported efforts are continuing to get a new state law passed that will create an alternative to levying a property tax on all landowners. The Monett Rural Fire Association's leadership has opted to stay with a flat membership fee rather than a tax levy.

The proposal seeks to allow fire districts to levy a flat rate on all property owners, similar to the current membership fee. Wimsatt said State Senator Jack Goodman has been working on the initiative. Wimsatt was hopeful the issue would advance farther in the coming legislative session.

Spending breakdown

To help the association better manage the funds it has, a budget was used for the first time in 2009. Board Vice President Michael Greenhaw developed the budget, based on actual expenses from recent years. Reported projections for income and spending ended the year very close to estimates.

During the 2008-09 fiscal year, the department had revenues of $50,498, almost entirely from memberships. Spending totaled $53,544.55 and included $3,400 for gas and oil, a reduction from the previous year, and $3,000 for vehicle maintenance, less than half of the previous year. Firefighters are paid $8 per run, adding up to $10,776 for the year.

"We are one of the only departments to pay volunteers," Wimsatt said. "We try to take care of them."

The association also pays Kevin Huffmaster $8,000 a year to serve as secretary/treasurer, handling dues and necessary paperwork.

Plans to build a new fire station in the Monett Industrial Park on land donated by EFCO Corporation have been put on hold. The project would take all the association's reserve funds plus a bank loan, Wimsatt said.

An Assistance to Firefighters Grant is being sought to build the station. Grants awarded in the first round have funded the construction of 100 stations. Wimsatt said the association's request was not rejected, leaving hope it would be approved in a future round.

Board re-elected

In other business, four board seats needed to be filled for the coming year. Members opted to return those serving for another year of duty. Elected by acclamation were: Herman Oetker from District One, Michael Greenhaw from District Two, Larry Long from District Three and Tim Brody from District Four.

Officers will be elected at the January meeting.

Memberships for the coming year were due on Dec. 1. Fees can be paid at the Huffmaster Insurance office in Monett.

Questions about the association's financial statements for the past year can be directed to Wimsatt at 235-4371.

Around 80 people, including board members, firefighters and their families attended the annual meeting at the City Park Casino. The ham and fish dinner was provided by Leon and Peggy Riggs.

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