Chief: Golden Valley Fire District bottom line 'robust'

CPA's audit uncovers no irregularities or concerns in fire district

Tom O'Donohue

Tom O'Donohue

GOLDEN VALLEY - Despite a drop of a cool $100 million in assessed valuation in Golden Valley since 2010 - and a $731,000 drop in property tax revenue dedicated to the Golden Valley Fire District over the same timeframe - the district is in sound financial condition, according to an independent auditor's report.

"Despite the challenging economic climate, Golden Valley Fire continues to be good ambassadors of the taxpayers' money by monitoring expenditures, preparing for future growth, all the while maintaining a robust bottom line in our annual budget," said Fire Chief Tom O'Donohue. "

Certified Public Accountant James Saunders of the Glendale-based Saunders Company gave the district a clean audit, finding no irregularities, issues or concerns with the way the district conducts its financial business.

Total revenues were $2.9 million, with slightly more than $2 million coming from current and past due property taxes. By comparison, property taxes collected were about $3.7 million at the height of valuations, according to District Chairman Mark Vanik and Director Steve Robinson.

The District was able to hold the line, said the men in a joint statement, due to so-called "out of district" contracts O'Donohue entered into with a host of private partners, including the state prison, UniSource and other large employers that do business outside of the district and rely on Golden Valley firefighters and paramedics to respond when needed.

The contracts totaled about $600,000 in fiscal year 2012-2013 that ended June 30.

The contracts also helped mitigate reductions in the district's contingency reserves, which were about $2.7 million compared to nearly $2.9 million four years ago.

Vanik pointed out that despite the reduction the district was able to invest more than $1 million on a new fire station and additional funds into new or refurbished apparatus. The new Station No. 11 on the district's east end was strategically located to serve the So-Hi Estates neighborhood - and help lower homeowners' fire insurance premiums.

The district also acquired and renovated the former Eagle Academy building on Colorado Road and turned it into a public safety training facility, an investment of about $1 million that began in 2011.

Vanik said the ability to thrive in the face of rapidly dwindling revenue is due to the working relationship between directors and O'Donohue.

"That we have been able to maintain our reserves in spite of reduced property tax revenues is a tribute to the sound fiscal management of the board and the leadership of Chief O'Donohue," said Vanik.

The district, however, is far from out of the woods from a financial perspective.

The greatest challenge has been dealing with the loss of valuation in the district," said the men. In 2010, the valuation of district property reached $161 million, dropping precipitously to only $67 million in 2013 and $61 million this year.

Another issue that could stretch revenues is the district's battle to obtain a certificate of necessity from the Arizona Department of Health, which would allow it to transport patients in Golden Valley to Kingman Regional Medical Center.

Currently, River Medical holds the certificate of necessity to provide ambulance service in Golden Valley, and does not want to give up servicing the area. There is litigation under way in a Phoenix court.

O'Donohue said he was proud of the "incremental improvements" in the district's annual audits. Citing the report as proof the district was prudent in its spending and followed strict accounting guidelines that met the "highest reporting and accountability standards."

Click for home delivery with comics, grocery deals, inserts, TV listings, coupons and more