Towns Ignore Fire District Invoices, Billing Misunderstanding Cited

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Kevin Murphy

MIDDLETON–An invoice that didn’t look like an invoice is the explanation given why the towns of Middleton, Springfield and Westport didn’t pay their 2017 capital assessment to the Middleton Fire District.

The town of Middleton will consider paying their $248,083 assessment at a town board meeting next month.

Each year the Fire District sends its member municipalities a bill for their share of the capital equipment the district has purchased that year. In 2017, that included the property at Century Ave. and CTH M for Fire Station #3, a vehicle and self-contained breathing apparatus.

Each municipality is assessed a portion of the cost based on the equalized value of the property within the municipality. The town of Middleton is responsible for 25 percent of the district’s expenses. 

In 2017, the three towns were assessed a combined $358,870.

The district assesses each town separately for its operational expenses. That invoices were unchanged for 2017 and were paid on time, said Melissa Bohse, the Cty of Middleton’s assistant finance director.

The City of Middleton is the fiscal agent for the district, producing the billing and receiving the payments. 

Last year, the district’s invoice changed in appearance enough that the municipalities didn’t’ recognize it as an invoice, said Fire Chief Aaron Harris.

“It didn’t look like an invoice, so they didn’t pay it…The City of Middleton did, because they knew what it was," Harris said

The new form included details of what the district had acquired but didn’t state that it was an invoice.

“I think they all expected to receive a follow up invoice. Melissa thought they would pay off the (new-look invoice),” Harris said.

When the money didn’t come in, Harris visited each town and explained the change. Bohse said she produced a different looking invoice in December and the towns agreed to pay up.

Going a year without receiving the capital assessments had no effect on safety or operations, said Harris.

“It was just a fund balance that needed to be fulfilled,” he said.

Bohse agreed.

“We watched it thorough the year and contacted the towns to see what the issue was…But there was enough cash flow to fund the (capital expenditures),” she said.

The towns caught a break in 2018 as there were no capital purchases and no capital assessments to be invoice. The same is expected this year, Harris said.

To prevent any future misunderstandings, Harris said, the district’s invoices will clearly state they are invoices. 

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