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Wentzville Fire District facing financial challenge

Make a change or the dollars won't be there. That is the message from a financial review of the Wentzville Fire Protection District. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the district could be out of money by the end of 2014 if changes are not made. The Post-Dispatch obtained the audit through a Sunshine Law request. The audit made 12 recommendations including that all capital spending be placed on hold until the district’s finances improve. At the end of 2012, the report says reserves totaled $1 million, which would cover only seven weeks of district operations. The internal review, prepared by Rognan & Associates, said the district has been spending more than it has been taking in since 2010, but “no mention of these deficits can be found in any district budget.”  The reports adds that a category referred to as “‘Money carried from prior year" appears to be disguising each year’s budget deficit from the board to the detriment of the district. The analysis advised that several spending procedures be reviewed, including the number of people who have access to district credit cards. It also suggested creating a policy regarding acceptable purchases made with the cards, and an accounting of voided checks, missing checks and checks used out of numerical sequence. The Post-Dispatch says the district’s attorney and spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, could not be reached for comment. It is unclear if any changes have been made to spending and accounting practices because of the review. According to the newspaper, the audit preceded the departure of four senior officers which included the resignation of Chief Randy Bornhop, the layoff of Fire Inspector Chris Newbold, the termination of Assistant Chief Robb Watkins and the placement of Fire Marshal Joseph Heitkamp on indefinite paid leave.

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