The end-of-year financial report for fiscal 2012-13, a patient outcome assessment and board policies were all discussed during the Aug. 27 Idyllwild Fire Protection District commission meeting.
For the last fiscal year, IFPD had its fourth-consecutive deficit since 2009. From July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, the department’s expenses were about $91,500 more than revenue, $20,000 more than the 2011-12 fiscal year deficit of $72,000.
Commissioner Jerry Buchanan attributed about a third of this year’s deficit to the early payment of bills in June rather than waiting for July.
A positive sign was that the final revenue of $1.7 million was about $32,000 more than the projection and about $65,000 more than 2011-12 collections. Ambulance income was $80,000 more than last year and about $68,000 more than projected. Also, the revenue from the ambulance contract with Riverside County increased $40,000 this year. Property tax revenue was essentially unchanged.
However, total expenses of about $1.79 million exceeded the budget by about $100,000 and were $137,000 more than a year ago. The largest increase was $82,000 in the Salaries and Benefits category. These were largely concentrated in overtime (+$26,000), reserves (+$32,000) and retirement (+$42,000). While health care was $45,000 more than the budget projection, it was only $11,000 more than 2011-12 amount.
Buchanan did report that another employee had agreed to repayment of the overpayment of health benefits. So eight of nine firefighters have an agreement with IFPD for either repayment of excess benefits or payment of unpaid overtime.
Buchanan also mentioned that legal fees were about $13,000 more than the budgeted amount of $12,000.
Although IFPD’s income was less than expenses during the year, its assets grew by $97,000 because accounts receivables were up $150,000. Neither the chief nor commission responded to questions about the divergence.
“We’ll do a better job of tracking this year,” Buchanan told his colleagues. “We’ll have additional tools.”
Commission President Jeannine Charles-Stigall and Commissioner Pete Capparelli discussed their ideas for patient comments on medical responses. They are developing a questionnaire to assess quality of service.
Stigall estimated that sending the questionnaire and paying the return postage could cost about $60 monthly, based on the current medical call volume.
Fire Chief Patrick Reitz took the Town Crier to task for its editorial critical of uniformed firefighters attending the election forum for IFPD candidates. He stressed that they were residents and taxpayers, whom he encouraged to attend. He found nothing remiss in their attendance.
He felt the editorial, a letter to the editor and the recent advertisements supporting Cal Fire were “a perpetuation of discontent in the community with half truths.”
However, Reitz did not discuss the 2008 Riverside County Grand Jury Report, which raised questions about the possibility of uniformed career staff intimidating the public at Commission meetings and with their comments.
While the chief stressed than no bullying was intended, he did not address how the attendance might have been perceived by others, as discussed in the Grand Jury report.
In other action, the commission approved seven more policies and reviewed about 15 more.
Reitz and Stigall re-affirmed that the next meeting, Sept. 10, will be devoted exclusively to adopting the 2013-14 budget.