Insolvency for the Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) has been postponed. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a loan or advance of $450,000 to IFPD. The funds will be repaid to the county from the district’s December and January property tax and special assessment payments.
On Friday, 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone said he expected the proposal to be approved at the Oct. 18 meeting.
“We kind of run into this [problem] every year,” said Commission President Pete Capparelli. “We’ll get through it. We’ll survive and the December and January repayments are OK.”
At the IFPD Oct. 11 meeting, the budget issues were a minimal topic. Fire Chief Norm Walker informed the commission of the county’s intent and no other budget discussion ensued.
As of Tuesday, Oct. 11, the IFPD cash balance was less than $83,000. Checks written, such as for the
CalPERS retirement, but not mailed, amounted to nearly 37 percent of the total balance. Funds actually available were less than $55,000.
Besides the early receipt of property tax revenues, IFPD may collect additional ambulance fees over the next several months.
The commission also approved a 5-percent increase in ambulance fees, which they hope will be effective before the end of the year. Walker advised the board this fee increase could be approved by the county’s Office of Emergency Medical Services without needing the Board of Supervisors for approval. This should result in an additional $35,000 in ambulance revenue, according to Walker.
But the commission has not yet addressed any long-term solutions to the financial problem. While the department maintains the issue exists because property tax collections are bunched into several months rather than spread more evenly across the year, no one has yet explained how net assets were depleted of a million dollars in the past several years.
Further, Tuesday’s meeting resulted in the discovery of an additional $24,000 of expenditures this year — salary and communications.
IFPD helped firefighter Greg Minor earned his paramedic credentials in the past year. Traditionally, the department then gives the individual a raise when he has passed the requirements to be a paramedic. But this year, the department did not budget for Minor’s pay increment.
Consequently, Chief Norm Walker informed the board of the additional funding need. This resulted in a prolonged discussion after which Administrative Capt. Mark LaMont chastised the board for breaking the budget.
The other $6,000 will be needed to equip the current cardiac monitors with Bluetooth (wireless) capability. The department’s former equipment had this capability, but former Chief Steve Kunkle replaced them with the new monitors three years ago, Walker said.
“The decision to buy the Zoll was not well thought out,” Walker told the commission.
In other business, Walker discussed the recent Mountain Zone Emergency Medical Services meeting, at which the expansion of the IFPD service area was discussed.
“AMR [American Medical Response, the county’s ambulance contractor] agrees in principle with the map we sent,” Walker told the board. Eventually, IFPD plans to expand emergency medical services to Lake Hemet, Walker told the commission.
He estimated the expanded service area would likely result in an additional 50 to 80 calls per year, which would generate additional revenue for the department’s coffers.
“We’ve talked about this before,” said County Service Area 38 (Pine Cove) chair Jerry Holldber. “Our first concern is how this might affect provision of a second ambulance and the existing level of service [to Pine Cove].”
In the next several months, Bruce Barton, director of Riverside County Office of Emergency Services, plans to meet with IFPD regarding the negotiation of a new contract for provision of ambulance services to Pine Cove, Walker announced.
Finally, the commission appointed a subcommittee composed of Commissioners Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly and Jeannine Charles-Stigall to draft a notice requesting interest in replacing former Commissioner Ben Killingsworth, who resigned in September. The commission hopes to make a selection before or by the November meeting.
Walker also reported that the department had been able to inspect 1,416 town properties this year, or about 38 percent of total had been inspected. In 2010, the total was greater than 50 percent of total properties.