The Idyllwild Fire Commission used most of its Jan. 8 meeting to review its budget status through November 2012 and conduct a short discussion of its 2011-12 audit.

After five months of the fiscal year, Idyllwild Fire Department has spent about 47 percent of its projected budget. Total expenditures through November were about $800,000, of which nearly 70 percent ($563,000) was for salaries and benefits.

Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly asked about the surge in health care costs compared to last fiscal year. Fire Chief Patrick Reitz explained that the district had no full-time chief for the last six months of the fiscal year and, therefore, paid less in health benefits.

Revenues were about $340,000 or only 20 percent of the projected total. This excludes the $425,000 property tax advance from Riverside County, which will be repaid from December and January property tax receipts. Chief Reitz had already reported that about $250,000 had been withheld from the December payment. This is about half of the advance, and the remainder is expected to be repaid from the January receipts.

Ambulance income has been strong so far this year. In five months the department has collected more than $150,000 of its projected total of $290,000, significantly ahead of estimates. The number of ambulance transports in calendar year 2012 was 309, about 33 percent greater than the average over the previous eight years.

While the commission was comfortable with the projected year-end totals, Reitz told them that fuel and utility costs were all up substantially, but he was negotiating new contracts.

The agency’s 2011-12 audit has not been completed and Reitz said he and financial consultant Nancy Layton had already spoken with Rogers, Anderson, Malody and Scott, LLP, the San Bernardino accounting firm, and planned another phone conference later that week.

“Your complicated audit was last year,” he said. “This one was easy, not about any problems.” The chief was hoping the audit could be completed in the next four weeks.

Reitz announced that an organizational meeting for the district’s fire auxiliary has been schedule for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at the IFPD Fire Station.

Commission President Jeannine Charles-Stigall announced that the regular second-January meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 22, has been cancelled. The next regular meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 12.