The Idyllwild Fire Department budget for fiscal 2014-15 is about $50,000 more than the current year budget. The district’s Finance Committee recommended the budget proposal to the full IFPD Commission for adoption at its June 10 meeting.
The major issue confronting the committee was how to display the net ambulance revenue.
Financial consultant Robert Dennis had included projected ambulance billings in revenues and the uncollected amounts in expenses. These amounts are the differences between the cost of the transport and what IFPD collects. For Medicare, Medi-Cal and some insurers, the ambulance fee is fixed by the healthcare organization. Some individuals just can’t pay the full cost either. The difference, whether it is unbilled or uncollected, Dennis included separately in expenses. Consequently, the total budget level of $2.2 million appears substantially higher than last year.
This would appear to be a nearly $500,000 increase from fiscal 2013-14, but that is misleading because of the uncollected and often not charged for amounts in expenses. Dennis needs the total billings and total uncollected figures for the end-of-year audit, but operations are dependent on actual revenue received.
The committee agreed to move the uncollected funds to a subcategory in revenues, so that the actual net ambulance fees are included in revenue totals. This is the second largest revenue source for the district and the budget projects that $335,000 in fees will be collected next. This is about the same level as the current year.
The commission considered a 1.8 percent increase on all ambulance rates at this meeting; however Fire Chief Patrick Reitz said he had just become aware of a possible way to increase the rates more than 1.8 percent. He will continue to research the option and may have to request a 5 or 8 percent increase to the County Emergency Services Medical Agency.
“We may have the ability to increase ambulance rates to help cover additional expenditures imposed by Riverside County [as a result of extending the ambulance contract],” he told the committee.
Property tax revenues, the largest portion of revenues, are expected to increase about $50,000, or 4.4 percent, more than the $1.1 million collected this year.
With this change, the 2014-15 budget total is $1.7 million. No salary or benefit increases are projected, according to Reitz.
The committee did have a current budget status report through the end of May. The department currently had a net income of about $130,000. In addition, the $218,000 from the cell tower lease was available to help with June and July bills.
Because property tax revenues arrive in December, the committee recommended that the commission again request an advance of those revenues for the first five months of the fiscal year. The recommendation was to ask for $300,000.
The new request continues the trend of asking for a smaller amount from the previous year. The original 2011 September request was for $450,000. The August 2012 request was for $425,000 and last year IFPD requested $400,000.
Reitz stressed that the request is only to help with the district’s cash flow between June and December, when the county collects and begins to distribute property tax revenue.
With the cell tower revenue, committee chair and commissioner Nancy Layton expressed the hope to establish a reserve account that could grow and obviate the need of these advance requests sometime in the future.
The preliminary 2014-15 budget was on the agenda for the commission’s June 10 meeting and a final budget must be approved before Oct. 1. Currently, that will be on the agenda of the Sept. 9 meeting.