In a special meeting, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) commission adopted changes to the District’s contract with Idyllwild Career Firefighters Association (ICFA). The amendments for fiscal year 2011-2012 budget are expected to reduce the agency’s salary and benefits costs almost $37,000, according to Commissioner Ben Killingsworth.

Nevertheless, the preliminary budget adopted last week still has a deficit greater than $30,000 despite these savings.

The vote to accept the agreement with ICFA was 3-1. Commissioner Jeanine Charles-Stigall was the lone dissenting vote and Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly was absent.

While the commissioners and ICFA seemed in agreement over the financial changes for this year, the employee group wanted to extend the current contract, including the revocation of contributing to their own retirement, one more year to June 30, 2014.

In return for concurring with the contract extension, the commission did not receive any new modifications. While the commission had previously objected to the extension, there was no discussion of why they now concurred.

When asked why the commission did not receive anything in return for the extension and why benefits for new employees were not addressed, as they have been in many recent contract negotiations throughout the state, Commissioner Ben Killingsworth responded, “I don’t think either of your questions requires or deserves an answer. The action taken was legal, done as part of “good faith” negotiations, and that’s all you should be concerned about.

“I don’t know what more you need to know other than the fact that the negotiations with ICFA resulted in the changes to their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), including extending it for one year, that were acted upon at our last meeting,” Killingsworth added later. “As for extending the MOU for an additional year, it guarantees nothing for either side — it is still open for negotiation every year during the life of the contract, as circumstances dictate. In fact, the MOU states that in no uncertain terms. One of the keys to a successful negotiation is to avoid arriving at an impasse, which, if it occurs, can result in a long drawn-out and potentially expensive process.”

Future negotiations are dependent upon both sides agreeing to negotiate. IFPD cannot force the ICFA to negotiate before the contract’s expiration.

The estimated $37,000 savings comes from the provisions below, which only apply to this fiscal year 2011-12 (beginning July 1 and expiring midnight, June 30, 2012):

  • A one-year freeze of the annual raise ($2,400 each) for captains and engineers;
  • A freeze in the cafeteria benefits program for one year;
  • Employees pay 2 percent of employee retirement costs.

In addition, the commission agreed to continue paying an annual cost-of-living adjustment, which is mentioned in the agreement’s exhibit, but not included in the body of the contract agreement. In June, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Los Angles-Riverside consumer price index grew 3.1 percent from May 2010 to May 2011.