Idyllwlld Fire Chief Norm Walker served on the Wallow Fire in Arizona during June. At the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 23, he described how fuel treatments similar to forest work done on the Hill helped firefighters gain control of one the largest fires ever in Arizona. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Future and past financial issues were the focus of the Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s (IFPD) meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 16. First, the commission agreed that, if Measure G, which authorizes raising the district’s special tax from $65 up to $130 annually, passes, they will set the 2011-12 level at $100.

Secondly, the commission heard from Scott Manno, of Rogers, Anderson, Malody and Scott, LLP, San Bernardino, IFPD’s auditors, who discussed the recently completed audit for the fiscal year July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010.

Although the commission adopted a resolution setting the unit or parcel fee at $65 per unit for the 2011-12 fiscal year, this step was a stop-gap action in case Measure G does not receive the required two-thirds vote in order to be adopted. The commission had to forward a resolution setting the fee level to the Riverside County Assessor’s Office in order to have the tax placed on the annual property tax and assessment bills.

If IFPD voters approve Measure G on Aug. 30, at its September meeting the commission will adopt a new resolution raising the tax level to $100.

“I did the numbers and recommend raising [the unit fee] by $35 [to $100 per unit], which will generate $110,000,” said IFPD President Pete Capparelli. “Last night [Monday, Aug. 15], our public hearing was lightly attended, but some were saying go to $130 now, don’t wait.”

The motion passed 4-1. Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly was the lone dissenting vote. If the tax measure is approved on Aug. 30, the commission will have to approve the increase in the form of a resolution and forward it to the county Assessor’s Office for collection beginning in December.

The commission also accepted its 2009-10 audit. Manno acknowledged an accompanying letter, which identified numerous material and significant weakness in the district’s internal control process. Nevertheless, he stressed that those problems were associated with how IFPD handled its finances during that period and since then “several things have changed and are now better. It doesn’t reflect what is going on now,” he told the commission.

The current budget year is already weighing on the district’s financial resources. Only $43,700 was collected, of which $38,500 was the Riverside County ambulance fee and ambulance transport income.

But expenses for July were more than $162,000, resulting in the use of about $120,000 of the district’s carry-over cash from previous years. As on July 31, IFPD had nearly $300,000 available for expenses until the current year tax revenues begin to arrive in December. In addition, another $88,000 for property assessments is still due from the county, according to Treasurer and Commissioner Ben Killingsworth.

In other business, Fire Chief Norm Walker reported that the district had done about 1,150 inspections, about 30 percent. However, he reported that the agreement with the Mountain Cooperative has been modified. The cooperative will limit its work to completing any forced abatement work that IFPD requires.

IFPD will be responsible for all inspection activities, Walker said. However, if a property does fail a second inspection, the district will recommend that the owner contact the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council for advice on abating.