Interim Idyllwild Fire Chief Mike Sherman continued to bring budget warnings to the Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s meetings. At Tuesday’s meeting, he first alerted the commission that the 2011-12 ambulance revenue estimate of $335,000 was unlikely to be achieved.

“You’ve never received more than $240,000 in [ambulance] revenue,” Sherman said. “Through December, we’ve collected about $127,900, so if that’s doubled, we might get $256,000 to $260,000.”

The current IFPD budget overestimates ambulance revenue by a minimum of $75,000, according to Sherman.

Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly agreed with Sherman and said it was a very optimistic estimate because the ambulance fee schedule was increased in 2010 and 2011.

Nevertheless, Sherman said, “The second half [of the year] revenues should be a little higher, but fees aren’t high enough to meet this goal.”

Later, Sherman advised the commission that even if they are able to adopt a balanced budget for fiscal year 2012-13, which begins July 1, the district is likely to need another advance from the county this fall.

“You’ll need an immediate advance from Riverside County, even if you pass a balanced budget,” Sherman warned. “Do what you did last year, only earlier [in the year].”

The current IFPD bank balance is about $280,000. The next major revenue collection will be in May following April property tax payments. In 2009, IFPD received about $250,000 during March and April, but in 2011, the district’s total revenue for those two months was $126,000.

Since expenses are between $100,000 and $140,000 monthly, the fire district’s financial situation remains precarious.

“It will be close. I am watching the balances closely as we need about $120,000 per month. You can see from the balances that we would have less than three months of cash, but we get between $20,000 and $25,000 per month in ambulance revenue; a quarterly payment from [Riverside Emergency Medical Servces] of $24,700; some small tax payments; and several outstanding fire payments, so we should make it without any disasters,” he said cautiously later in the week.

The negotiating subcommittee, commissioners Pete Capparelli and Jerry Buchanan, have held some meetings with the Idyllwild Career Firefighters. They also requested a closed session at the end of Tuesday’s meeting to confer with their commission colleagues on strategy and issues.

The accounting firm of Rogers, Anderson, Malody and Scott of San Bernardino is still working on the 2010-11 audit. Both Sherman and Buchanan indicated this would be necessary in order to refinance the district’s debt.

While Sherman has been discussing refinancing and consolidation of the vehicle and medical equipment loans with several institutions, he did not have a specific proposal for the commission at this meeting. He is attempting to obtain lower interest rates and a longer payback period in order to reduce IFPD’s annual cash flow.

He did get agreement from Kansas State Bank, holder of one of the engine loans, to defer the principal payment, due Feb. 1, for three months until May 1 and has been discussing terms with the California Special District Association.

On Sunday, Sherman talked about his progress since the meeting.

“The refinance is in progress with CSDA,” he wrote in an email. “They will need to review the audit and other financials before they would commit. The refinancing must be complete and the other loans paid off before May 1. I sent them the preliminary commitment dated and signed on the 16th [of February, Friday].”

Sherman reported that he had met with Nancy Layton about the bookkeeping position. Leigh Humphries, the former bookkeeper has resigned, Sherman said. She had told the board of her intention to leave in late 2010. Sherman had Layton do some financial work and recommended that the commission approve hiring her. She will work 10 hours per week at $25 per hour.

Sherman and Commissioner Buchanan were going to negotiate her specific duties and functions this week, but she will help Sherman prepare the budget and take on payroll responsibilities, although Rapid Data, which currently produces the checks will also issue payments to CalPERS now.