Firefighter Adam Rodriguez (left) and Administrative Captain Mark LaMont sign the letter of understanding between the Career Firefighters Association and IFPD as Commission Larry Donahoo, who had already signed, watches

Following a closed session, the Idyllwild Fire Commission announced that the career firefighters have accepted a seven-percent pay reduction. The cutback is effective immediately and will first be seen in the March payroll covering the whole month of February.

Commission Vice President Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly thanked the firefighters for helping the district and residents.

Speaking for the Idyllwild Career Firefighters Association, Administrative Captain Mark LaMont said the group realized Idyllwild, along with towns and communities throughout the nation, was significantly affected by the poor economy.

“We’re ready and willing to take concessions to get through this difficult time,” he said. “Between the [commission] and labor, if everybody grabs the rope and pulls in one direction, we’ll get through this time.”

In open session, the Commission unanimously adopted a letter of understanding between the district and the Career Association. Commission President Jeannine Charles-Stigall was absent.

The agreement states, “[T]he parties agree to the following alteration: A base Salary reduction for all current ICFA employees at the rate of 7 percent.”

Buchanan estimated this would save the District $7,000 per month, based on an estimate of monthly payroll expenses at about $100,000.

Either party can void this agreement with a 24-hour written notice. Buchanan and LaMont both said the two parties are continuing to negotiate and the letter specifies several of the continuing subjects, such as a review of the current memorandum of understanding, future spending plans, overview of line item expenses and current and future revenue sources.

“It is the intent of each party to this agreement to ensure the future viability of the Idyllwild Fire Protection District,” concludes the letter. The mutual goal is concurrence upon a new agreement with the career firefighters.

Before the closed session, Commissioner Jerry Buchanan, one of the two commissioners forming the ad hoc negotiating committee, reported that the committee and the ICFA had already met three times, including one all-day session.

Even before the announcement, interim chief Mike Sherman expressed a newfound optimism about the district’s future. The pessimism of the previous meeting had lifted.

“You’ll be in the black for a full 12 months,” he predicted. “Maybe a need for a little cash advance.”

After the announcement, Sherman attributed his positive view to the auditors completing a trial cash balance, the likelihood of refinancing the district’s outstanding loans and ICFA’s cooperation. His cash flow analysis for the fiscal year July 2012 through June 2013 shows a positive balance for each month, a different and better result than he found two weeks ago.

The 2010-11 audit is expected to be completed several weeks before the final refinancing documents need to be signed, Sherman told the commission.

“I feel much better about the financial condition of Idyllwild now,” he shared before the commission went into its closed session.