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LETTERS: MOFD Needs Help

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Letter to the Editor

Editor:

Last week (October 15) the Moraga-Orinda Fire District posted its annual audited financials, the Board discussed them for 30 minutes, and then accepted them 5-0 with no changes…

The financials were presented in a new, expanded, 80-page format which is supposed to give more depth and insight to the District’s finances. In fact, all it does is put down more numbers to obfuscate MOFD’s precarious financial position.

For the seventh consecutive year MOFD reported (in four separate versions of a balance sheet) that it had $10 million in net assets. In reality, it has over $60 million in net liabilities including over $200 million in gross liabilities offset by $125 million in pension assets. So how can it report $10 million in net assets? By ignoring all of its pension liabilities; much of its pension assets, and over half of its retiree medical benefit liabilities. MOFD is not “breaking the law”, it is just reporting in the manner that GASB (the Government Accounting Standards Board) tells it to. And in doing so it is deceiving the community and itself.

This year MOFD decided to create a CAFR (Comprehensive Financial Accounting Report) expanding the normal 50 page financial document to 80 pages with extra financial information. But the extra information was superfluous and the only discussion at the board meeting regarding the financials was an attempt to understand the relevance of the extra information (which was never determined.) In fact, while the balance sheet did not reflect the District’s huge pension liabilities (eight times its annual revenue), this year the financials did not even contain the pension liability or asset information. Was this an oversight? It is unknown because nothing in the financial document commented on the omission of this data and no one at the board meeting, not the staff nor the auditor nor the directors, commented on it. Either they were not aware of it or unconcerned about it. This is not right.

What is the community to do? Elect competent managers who understand finance. This is not a political endorsement but a plea to the community to put the right people in charge of our emergency services provider which spends $20 million of our tax dollars each year. This year two people are running for the position of Director of MOFD in Moraga. One has run businesses and financial funds for 25 years and has an MBA from Harvard; Nathan Bell. The other, the incumbent Kathy Famulener, is an attorney appointed last year by two of MOFD’s long standing directors, Wyro and Weil, who got the District into the financial mess it is currently in. If she is elected she will be joining two other attorneys already on the board.

We do not need legal assistance; we need financial aid. Please elect Bell for MOFD board so that he can help unwind the mess that MOFD has found itself in.

For more information on MOFD’s financial condition including a “real” balance sheet and a comparison of five years of MOFD financial results, go to www.OrindaTaskForce.org.

Signed,

Steve Cohn

Orinda

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