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This blog is dedicated to everything you want to know about NJ Fire Districts.
By - Oliver Walling on 9/8/2014 1:45 PM
The 2015 Budget format was made available today.  It pretty much is totally revised.  There are familiar parts, but the format and flow are different.  You will also discover that there is much more narrative then there has ever been.  The narrative is in question/answer format with additional schedules required.  It looks as though they are focusing on compliance issues.  The real question is, what will their response will be to noncompliance and perjury issues.  For example, I believe most fire districts have a web site address and I believe most will certify on Page C-5 that they are in compliance.  I have visited a number of sites and many are far from compliant.  Will they be denied tax dollars to fight fires because they are missing information on their web site?  There are attorneys representing fire districts who will tell their Boards that DCA's budget approval is merely advisory and tax dollars cannot be denied to the districts.  I think there will be quite a few budget preparers this year who are just...
By - Oliver Walling on 9/3/2014 8:14 AM
On August 25, 2014 the Local Finance Board issued Local Finance Notice (LFN) 2014-13 Annual Audit Requirements for Local Authorities and Fire Districts.  This LFN is a reminder to Boards of their responsibilities as a governmental entity with regards to the annual audit.  Most importantly you must hire a knowledgeable audit firm.  Your audit must be conducted according to generally accepted auditing standards, Government Auditing Standards, and audit standards adopted by the Local Finance Board and the Department of Community Affairs and its divisions.


The audit must be performed by a New Jersey licensed registered municipal accountant (RMA) or certified public accountant (CPA).  The performance standards stated above further require that the auditor must be knowledgeable and competent in these standards and all applicable regulations.  Additionally, the audit firm must be in compliance with the external peer review program established by the State of New Jersey.


This LFN requires...
By - Oliver Walling on 8/28/2014 1:10 PM
In July the Local Finance Board issued Local Finance Notice 2014-9 "Secondary Bond Market - Continuing Disclosure Commitments".  LFN 2014-9 reminds us that there are post issuance requirements with most fire district bond issues.  Typically, Official Statements have included a requirement that the issuer must file certain financial documents annually.  Failure to do the required filings can be detrimental to future bond issues.


Boards must file the required documents annually with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) utilizing the Electronic Municipal Market Access(EMMA) system.  Go to www.emma.msrb.org to learn more about how to use EMMA.  If you are not sure where your Official Statement is you can print it out from this site.  In the statement it will detail what the required annual disclosures are for your bond issue.  Typically it will require the annual audit, the current budget, and a financial fact sheet.


The Securities...
By - Oliver Walling on 8/22/2014 10:39 AM
The middle of August already.  It seems to be true that the older you get the quicker time passes.  And, as we get older we want it to slow down because we know what's there at the end!


I was talking with Rich Braslow, my legal counterpart of 30+ years, and we were saying how quiet things are.  The Legislature is up to its usual "how do we control fire districts" discussions.  It seems that soon we will have legislation similar to school boards where we have the option of switching to the November election and avoid the public vote on the budget.  Of course the big question here is, how will they handle multi-districts where district boundaries do not coincide with voter districts.  Another excuse to force consolidation?


Another audit concern is Local Finance Notice 2014-9, Secondary Bond Market Continuing Disclosure Commitments.  If you currently have any bonds issued you need to read LFN 2014-9.  Technically, the requirement is not new.  What's new is the enforcement.  Review your Official Statement and determine whether or not there are required annual filings and if so, are you in compliance?  Consult with your accountant or auditor now so you can be in compliance before the 2014 audit commences.  I discussed this with one auditor and he assured me that if we are not compliant by December 31, we will be written up.  Additionally,  the Division is considering adding a certification of compliance as part of the budget package like they did with the web site compliance.

By - Oliver Walling on 8/30/2013 11:22 AM
Traditionally, here at the Jersey Shore we see Labor Day as the end of the summer season and the beginning of the fall season.  To those of us who work with fire districts, Labor Day marks the beginning of budget season.  Yes, it's time to think about the 2014 budget year.  In a recent discussion with DCA it appears that the 2014 Budget format will be substantially the same as 2013.  DCA will make a presentation at Wildwood so we should learn more then.  Remember, if you plan to spend any Capital funds in 2014 you must have voter approval for the appropriation, and it must be provided for in the Capital section of your 2014 Budget.  It will be best if you can submit your budget in November and schedule your public hearing in December.  Last year budgets were reviewed in the order of the date of the public hearing.  You could be scrambling at the last minute to get documents on their review checklist.  Have your attorney advise you on the time restrictions and try to have the introduction in November and the adoption...
By - Oliver Walling on 12/21/2012 10:15 AM
As we approach the Christmas holidays we breath a sigh of relief that all our budgets have been submitted by the deadline.  The big question this budget season was what do we do about potential FEMA grants.  Fortunately, the State Legislature passed PL 2011 c.153 in 2011.  If you receive a grant to purchase equipment and have not included the grant or the appropriation in the budget, you can now amend the budget adding the revenue and the appropriation.


FEMA funds are also available to reimburse districts for expenses incurred as a result of Superstorm Sandy.  If the amount of the expense is known, discuss with your auditor the advisabilty of accruing the expenses and revenue on your 2012 financial statements.


Make sure you have reviewed Local Finance Notice 2012-29.  This notice relates to emergency appropriations and financing.  There is a list there of vendors added to the state contract list that relate to disaster supplies and equipment, including generators.  I have been told...
By - Oliver Walling on 10/26/2012 1:57 PM
District Web Site and 2013 Budget should be your focus.
By - Oliver Walling on 9/17/2012 11:50 AM
Key issues discussed at the Annual NJ State Association of Fire Districts meeting.
By - Oliver Walling on 8/13/2012 10:23 AM
New Jersey Fire Districts are exempt from sales and use tax, but sometimes a vendor just will not accept it.
By - Oliver Walling on 7/31/2012 11:13 AM
Is your Board thinking about making a Capital purchase in 2013?  Now is the time to start the process.  Since Capital purchases are outside the Cap, DCA is questioning some of the items being budgeted as "Capital".  Review with your attorney the statutory definition of Capital.


All Capital purchases must have voter approval prior to inclusion in the budget.  So, if you have a Capital purchase planned for 2013,  you must have voter approval before you introduce your 2013 Budget.  There are two types of election processes permitted by statute.  One is like the February election where you need 60 days of notice and prescribed hours for voting.  The other method is a special meeting election.  This method requires 10 days notice and the window for voting can be much smaller.  If you are issuing bonds for the purchase, most bond attorneys will insist upon the 60 day election.  Lease purchasing is permitted through the special meeting election.  You must request authorization to issue bonds or lease purchasing if you are financing the project.  You must obtain voter approval to purchase and to finance.


Recent Articles

2015 Budget
FALL 2013
2012 Wrap Up
October Update
Exemption from New Jersey Sales and Use Tax
2013 Capital Purchases