Idyllwild Fire Commission approves budget for FY 2017-18

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Will explore future revenue measure

Commissioners for the Idyllwild Fire Protection District approved the fiscal year 2017-18 budget at their June 27 meeting. For the fiscal year, beginning July, the fire department budget will be slightly greater than $2.1 million.

The defeat of Measure W prevented the district from proposing any major changes or additions to its annual budget. Revenue and expenditures are expected to increase 4 percent. Total revenue is projected to be $2.1 million, and expenditures are budgeted at $2.1 million, but $19,000 less than the expected revenue.

Through May, revenues are $2.145 million, $108,000 more than the projected total, and one month remains in the fiscal year. Battalion Chief Mark LaMont said the higher-than-anticipated revenues this year are from two unplanned-for grants. Still, actual revenue is higher than projected. Expenditures have totaled $1.9 million.

The projected revenue increases occur in the property tax and parcel fee revenue and anticipation of another payment from the state for supplemental support for ambulance service.

Ambulance fee revenue is constant from last year to this year. Fire Chief Patrick Reitz informed the commission that actual receipts from this source will begin to trend slightly higher year-to-year because of the recent shift to electronic billing. Payments from several insurers are being received sooner because of the new billing.

Salaries and benefits grow about 4 percent, but no major or new initiatives are proposed for 2017-18. In addition to the expected $19,000 surplus, Commissioner Jerry Buchanan, chair of the finance committee, noted that budget does include $17,000 for discretionary use. These funds are available since the district does not plan to contract for an emergency medical services coordinator next year. Staff will handle this function in the new fiscal year, he said.

The vote to approve the new budget was 4-0, with Commissioner Jeannine Charles-Stigall absent.

The Capital Improvement Program continues to be minimal in the absence of new revenue. Although Measure W, which would have raised about another $240,000 annually, received a majority of the votes cast, it required 66.7 percent to be passed.

Commission President Rhonda Andrewson appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate the possibility of bringing another revenue measure before the voters sometime in the next two years. Commissioners Larry Donahoo and Henry Sawicki will report back to the full commission at its September meeting.

“We need to spend more time looking at this and see what we can do,” Buchanan said.

Sawicki urged the commission to set a tentative goal of placing a measure on the November 2018 general election ballot.

“I’m not sure when we’ll get the best turnout,” said Reitz. “If it isn’t passed in 2018, then we could go for a special election.”

Among the items the ad hoc committee will examine are reasons Measure W fell short of the two-thirds majority, an election date that might present a better chance of passage and a potential campaign for its support.

In other business, the commission re-appointed Calvin Gogerty as a citizen member of the finance committee. They are still seeking two more citizen members.

Former Commissioner Nancy Layton, now a Hemet resident, attended the meeting and gave the district a $650 donation following the sale of her Idyllwild residence this spring.

“This is 10 years of additional property fees,” she said, speaking for herself and husband Rick Foster, to the commission. “It’s a small token of our gratitude and depth of our heart, thanks and love.”

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