The Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission unanimously raised its ambulance fees 5 percent at the May 28 meeting, meaning rates have grown about 25 percent since 2010.

While no analysis of the fire department’s costs for 2012-13 was presented, both Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly and Fire Chief Patrick Reitz explained that IFPD rates are “lower than any other agency. And the new rates will still keep us in the bottom.”

If ambulance incidents continue at about the same rate next year as this year, the 5-percent increase should be a revenue boost of between $15,000 and $20,000.

The current budget situation, the recovery of the extra health benefit payments or next year’s budget were not discussed, although the commission hopes to have the 2013-14 budget on its June 11 agenda. The health benefits overpayment occurred over 16 months, and wasn’t unearthed until April after the commission was advised that its budget deficit continued to expand.

IFPD’s operating deficit grew to nearly $235,000, a $15,000 increase from the end of March. With receipt of May and June property tax revenues, the current deficit should decrease by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

The commission did authorize the chief to request another advance of its December property tax revenue. This will be the third consecutive year IFPD has needed these funds before their December collection.

Commissioner Jerry Buchanan initially recommended that the commission request a $375,000 advance, but after some questions from fellow commissioners, he said he felt safer if the amount requested were $400,000.

The new request continues the trend of requesting a smaller amount from the previous year. The original 2011 September request was for $450,000. The August 2012 request was for $425,000.

The commission also discussed creating a budget and audit committee and appointing members to its planning committee. These will both be on the June 11 meeting agenda.

Buchanan recommended that some community members be included on the budget and audit committee.

“This would provide the community with better sunshine [on the process] and give them insight to finances and quarterly reviews,” he said. And President Jeannine Charles-Stigall agreed that community involvement would be good.

Chief Reitz also supported the community involvement but recommended that some guidelines on how many citizens would be chosen and the criteria would be useful to see before beginning. He also stressed that it would be too late for the committee to have substantive involvement in the 2013-14 budget, which he hopes to have for the June meeting.

The commission also discussed appointing members to a planning committee to develop a long-range plan for the department.

Ambulance fee increases

2012 2013 Change
ALS Base $1,089.17 $1,143.63 $54.46
Non-resident $1,380.17 $1,449.18 $69.01
BLS base $630.00 $661.50 $31.50
Mileage $27.00 $28.35 $1.35
Oxygen $147.84 $155.23 $7.39
Night $133.98 $140.68 $6.70
Dry run $144.38 $151.60 $7.22