By Michael B. Sherman, Interim Fire Chief

Most people don’t like change. The old saying is, “the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes.” Well, some people beat the government out of their taxes and it has been said that one has beaten death, but it is absolutely true that we all face change almost everyday of our lives.

Change is truly the only thing that is certain. Now I would like to change the topic that I had planned to write about because what I have to say is too important to miss.

This month, I am writing about what has changed and what is about to change at the Idyllwild Fire Protection District. Five months ago, the IFPD was facing an uncertain financial future. I am happy to report that the financial situation at IFPD has changed for the positive.

As certain as anything can be, IFPD has a much brighter financial future. It was reported that IFPD was noted to have net “negative assets” as of the recent accepted audit. That is a true statement. What might be less intuitive to the untrained observer is that for the first time in many years the financial statements are properly recording all assets, revenues and liabilities. Now they are presented, as they are required to be presented.

In the past, old bills were held unpaid (unknown to many); all liabilities weren’t clearly known or reported (pensions, equipment payments, etc.); and the clear and real picture of finances lagged behind the printed public documents (old undone audits). Those days are gone; the financial picture at IFPD is not only clear, it is certain what direction the District is heading and that is to a stable financial future.

The drop in IFPD assets has not been as steep as one might believe. The actual decline in net assets as reported in the IFPD audit has been directly affected by booked depreciation and the proper capturing of old liabilities as much as it has been by the economic downturn. In this next fiscal year, IFPD will have all assets professionally appraised for current real values so that proper current values of assets can be used in future audits. Also, revenues are projected out to reflect increasing reserves (cash assets) for the first time in the last few years.

In a nutshell, the negative financial picture has seen bottom and is started back to the positive, even in the midst of a terrible economy. What is interesting at IFPD, unlike most current public agencies, IFPD has not reduced staff and they are not facing any imminent staff reductions. This is a position many other fire departments would love to be in.

What else that is about to change at IFPD is the leadership at the fire chief’s level. Now that the financial picture is brighter, my job here is coming to a close. While finishing up a few loose ends and putting together the final 2012/13 proposed budget based on how those loose ends come together, I will begin helping the IFPD Board start the search for a new fire chief.

The new chief can come to the position with a strong IFPD financial base. That will allow him or her to roll up their sleeves and dig into operations, team building, procedures, infrastructure, etc. The search should take four to six weeks and after a short transition, I will go back to being retired. That will be a good change, even if only for a short period.

Until next time, it’s time to put out the dog and douse the fire.