In a special meeting, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District commission adopted a preliminary 2011-2012 budget. The fiscal year begins July 1 and the budget package is more than $30,000 in the red.

The preliminary 2011-12 budget projects $1.7 million of expenditures and revenues totaling $1.67 million. Revenues are nearly $110,000 less than the current 2010-11 estimate and expenditures are about $80,000 below the current year. However, the proposed budget is based on an assumption of an agreement with Idyllwild Career Firefighters Association (ICFA), which the commission has not yet adopted.

The vote to adopt the preliminary budget was 4-1. Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly was the lone dissenting vote, objecting to approving a deficit budget. The difference will come from reserves, which exceeded $470,000 on June 13.

The proposed budget assumed a revised contract with the ICFA would be adopted later in the meeting. However, the memorandum, which the ICFA prepared, included a provision to extend the current contract from its expiration date on July 1, 2013 to 2014. Schelly noted that the commission had expressly rejected that provision during strategy sessions.

When Schelly objected to the inclusion of the extension, President Pete Capparelli concurred. At this point, commissioners Paul Riggi and Ben Killingsworth, who negotiated for the commission, asked firefighter Mark LaMont how strongly the association felt about the extension.

He refused to answer in the open meeting and the commission took no further action on the agreement, asking their negotiators to return to the bargaining table for clarification.

The other provisions, which the commission appeared willing to accept included the following:

• A one year freeze of the annual raise ($2,400 each) for captains and engineers;

• A freeze in the cafeteria program for one year;

• Employees pay 2 percent of employee retirement costs.

The estimated total one-year savings is about $37,000, according to Killingsworth. Without its adoption, the preliminary budget’s deficit would be greater than $50,000. The deficit was reduced last week when the board approved Chief Norm Walker’s recommendation to refinance the engine and brush truck, reducing annual payments about $23,000.

Currently, IFPD pays the full 9 percent of employee retirement costs as well as all of the employer costs. In October 2010, CAL FIRE employees began paying 10 percent of the employee share for retirement, a 4 percent increase.

The commission appears willing to codify the cost-of-living adjustment, which was mentioned in the agreement exhibit, but not the language of the agreement. Based on current figures, the expected wage increase will be about 3 percent, more than off-setting the retirement contribution.

In other business, the commission approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Mountain Disaster Preparedness (MDP) group. In an email, which Killingsworth read, MDP President Veronica Alt said her group had approved the MOU and would sign the document after the commission indicated its acceptance.

Finally, Capparelli did acknowledge that IFPD officially received the Riverside County’s Grand Jury report; however, Schelly asked his colleagues to defer any further discussion until the regular July meeting to afford the public an opportunity to read it and possibly bring any questions or comments to that meeting.

The board has 90 days, or until Sept. 12, to respond to the Grand Jury.