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Auditor Montee: problems remain for North County fire district

By Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The follow-up to the November 2009 audit of the Northeast Ambulance and Fire Protection District found progress at the troubled agency - but also serious remaining problems.

State auditor Susan Montee released her second report on the district Tuesday night. She said her staff discovered the district's cash balances plummeted by about $2.3 million or 54 percent from June 30, 2008, through this past June 30. During that span, the district's revenue remained fairly constant, but spending increased dramatically.

"So a significant decrease there and a real problem, because receipts basically remained constant, so it didn't have anything to do with revenues going down, it was all increases in spending," she said. Montee also found inadequate record-keeping. For instance, her office discovered one employee who took $13,000 worth of sick time they had not accrued.

The finances of the district are under supervision of a special master, the result of a lawsuit filed last year. The same court also forced out two members of the board's district, and another resigned.

Derek May was one of two new board members appointed by the court. He blamed any financial problems on the old board.

"And we're well ahead of our budget that we presented to the courts, and I think we'll be fine going forward," he said. We still have a long way to go, a lot of problems to address, but I think we're in a really good position going forward."