Idyllwild Fire plans $2 million budget for 2016-17

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The Idyllwild Fire Department’s Finance Committee reviewed the proposed fiscal year 2016-17 budget and moved it to the full commission with some minor changes. The new budget totals slightly more than $2 million in both revenues and expenses. Revenues are projected to be $7,500 more than total expenses.

For the current year, budget totals are about $1.9 million, with expenses about $2,000 more than revenues. The increase in 2016-17 is about $180,000.

However, current-year totals are budget projections since a financial report for May was not available.

Revenue increases are expected in property-tax collections. This year, the budgeted tax collections’ estimate was about $800,000 and the committee has projected $934,000 for 2016-17. The other large revenue increase is for cost reimbursements of firefighting activities outside IFPD’s jurisdiction. These revenues are projected to grow $60,000 to a total of $300,000.

Despite an increase in ambulance rates, the budgeted collections are about the same as this year. Fire Chief Patrick Reitz said it takes some time for insurance companies to adjust to the new rates.

Salary costs will increase $60,000 to a total of about $1 million. This will enable the IFPD to have its full complement of nine firefighting staff and a battalion chief in addition to the fire chief. The budget implements the new memorandum of understanding with the Idyllwild Career Firefighters Association, which provides a 2.3-percent salary increase in 2016-17.

A larger increase of about $110,000 is for benefits. About 90 percent is for Cal Pers, and the balance for health and welfare benefits. Costs for Other Post Employment Benefits declines almost 50 percent to $25,000 due to reductions in the Cal Pers medical insurance rates, according to Battalion Chief Mark LaMont.

The committee expects legal costs to drop substantially next year. Through April, IFPD has spent nearly $150,000 for legal support. Next year, the committee has budgeted slightly more than half that amount — $82,000.

The proposed budget does not include any revenue from services to the recently formed Idyllwild San Jacinto Regional Fire Authority. Although the City Council of San Jacinto has extended for one year its fire and emergency services contract with the Riverside County Fire Department, work on the project has incurred expenses and Reitz has said this information will be presented to the commission.

While the new budget includes $4,000 to pay the expenses of putting a unit or parcel fee increase on the November ballot, the committee has not included any more revenues in the budget in anticipation of its approval.

Also, the budget does not include any major capital project investments. “We couldn’t go for it now because of the budget,” Reitz said.

In other business, the committee decided not to change the time of its regular meeting, the second Wednesday of each month. In July, IFPD will implement its recently approved procedures for the committee, which include appointing a community member as committee chair.

Commissioner Nancy Layton has served as chair since the committee’s inception in 2013. However, a poll of the committee members revealed that Mark Lonsbury and Susan Weisbart do not plan to continue and Calvin Gogerty wants only a one-year term.

Layton was hopeful she could recruit two new members who could be appointed when the commission convenes on June 28, the day of its next meeting.

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