Fighting fires in rural areas can be a taxing job. St. Tammany Fire District No. 11, however, has been doing some taxing of its own — a little too much, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office.
The fire district, which covers Pearl River and the surrounding area, appears to have collected more taxes than allowed by state law, according to a report released by the Auditor’s Office.
The district has been collecting 8 mills of tax since it issued some general obligation bonds in 1995, the report says. The millage rate was supposed to be adjusted every year to produce only the amount needed to make payments on those bonds. The district, however, has collected 8 mills every year, regardless of how much was needed to service the debt, the audit says.
Exactly how much was over-collected is unclear, according to auditors. They said the district should have kept a separate account for the tax collections to better account for the funds, but it did not do so.
The audit report, prepared by the accounting firm Erickson Krentel & LaPorte, includes a statement from the Fire District’s board in which board members agree with the finding and promise to create a committee including the district fire chief, the board president, the district’s legal counsel and a member of its outside accounting firm. The committee will be tasked with calculating how much excess tax the district has collected and then will consult with the Louisiana State Bond Commission on a solution.
The 8 mills to cover the bond debt were slightly less than one-fifth of the 42.36 mills the district collected in 2013, according to information from the St. Tammany Parish Assessor’s Office.
The fire district has three stations and is staffed by more than 30 volunteers and paid firefighters.
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