Idyllwild Fire plans to move commission elections: Beginning 2017, commissioners to be elected in even years

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Beginning in 2018, the election of Idyllwild Fire Protection District commissioners will coincide with either presidential or California gubernatorial elections.

The IFPD commission unanimously approved a resolution requesting the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approve the switch from mail-ballot elections at the end of August in odd-numbered years.

In February, when he shared this idea with his colleagues, Jerry Buchanan, commission president, said, “It would give a better opportunity for more people to vote. August is a typical vacation time.”

The average number of Idyllwild registered voters casting ballots in the four general elections since 2008 was 1,310 compared to an average of 652 ballots cast in the past four IFPD elections.

This proposal would not affect commissioners Buchanan and Larry Donahoo, the commission vice president, whose terms expire this December.

Both announced their plans to run again at the end of the April 28 meeting last week. They will be on the August 2015 ballot for re-election if any challengers file candidacy papers.

The terms of the other three commissioners — Rhonda Andrewson, Jeannine Charles-Stigall and Nancy Layton — expire in December 2017. The resolution requests the Board of Supervisors’ approval of extending their terms one year until the district’s first even-numbered year election, which would be November 2018, the same date as the next California gubernatorial election.

Financial and budget topics occupied most of the IFPD meeting. The commission received its 2013-14 audit from Charles Z. Fedak & Company of Cypress.

“Most important is our opinion,” Fedak said, while describing the audit’s conclusions. “‘Unmodified’ is the highest we can give.” After his full presentation, the commission unanimously accepted the audit.

Treasurer Nancy Layton reported that the current-year budget (2014-15, which ends June 30) was headed in the right direction, despite a significant deficit at the end of March. Slightly less than half ($89,000) of the $215,500 deficit was for the purchase of the two ambulances in February.

“Considering the purchase of the ambulances from the operating fund in February, which we certainly had NOT [sic] budgeted for in that way, when we project forward to June 30, we’re looking okay,” Layton wrote in her treasurer’s report.

IFPD is trying to obtain a loan for this purchase to avoid using operating funds for the capital investment and ensure more cash for the beginning of 2015-16.

To her colleagues, Layton said, “Two things impacted the budget. Positively, the greater ambulance income was a good thing. But the negative was the much higher legal costs.”

IFPD originally budgeted $25,000 for legal expenses and in February doubled this estimate to $50,000. Now, Layton thinks the full-year legal expenses will be significantly more than this estimate.

Helping to control this year’s expenses, Layton said “… holding the line on personnel expenses mainly by not filling the two [sic] open career positions is helping stretch our income by a lot.”

Also, a brief discussion of the prospective 2015-16 budget indicated that Fire Chief Patrick Reitz and staff were still preparing a preliminary draft, which the commission hopes to approve in June.

The upcoming negotiations between the district and Career Firefighters Association for a new agreement may affect next year’s budget. The commission did hold a closed session to discuss its strategy for negotiations. No date for the first negotiation session has been set, according to Adam Rodriguez, engineer and CFA president.

While the commission did not confirm a date to discuss the prospects of a new tax measure, Layton recommended a workshop session to discuss the various issues. This may be a special meeting or just prior to the May commission meeting.

“All of these are important and we need to work through how to deal with this,” Buchanan said, supporting the concept of a workshop.

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