The Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission accepted its 2012-13 audit and decided to seek a new auditing firm at the board’s April 8 meeting.
Before discussing the district’s financial condition, which continues to deteriorate, Fire Chief Patrick Reitz said, “I want to publicly admonish RAMS [Rogers, Anderson, Malody and Scott, LLP, the district’s auditors since November 2010]. I requested representatives at this meeting.
“We’re not important enough, even though they were on the Hill today,” Reitz continued. “That they were not available to us tonight is extremely unprofessional.”
In the absence of the actual authors of the audit, Reitz asked the district’s financial consultant, Rob Dennis, to discuss the results.
“IFDP got a clean opinion,” Dennis stated. “There are no liquidity or solvency issues.”
Despite this comment, the audit’s discussion states “… the General Fund reported a decrease in fund balance of $138,753.” For another year, the district’s expenditures continued to exceed revenues. Consequently, its assets (other than property) were about $430,000, a decline of nearly $200,000 in two years.
A positive result in 2013 was the growth of property tax revenue by nearly $72,000 to $1.1 million. IFPD projects tax revenue will grow 4 percent this year.
This is the third consecutive year of negative income. Consequently, reserves, exclusive of capital assets, have fallen from nearly $900,000 at June 2007 to about $240,000 at June 2013.
The current year’s budget (2013-14) has a $45,000 net income, according to Dennis’ report. However, without the $218,000 from the one-time sale of the cell tower in September, the budget would have shown a $173,000 deficit.
In addition, Dennis posts ambulance billings as revenue rather than actual cash collected. There is an expenditure charge for write-offs and uncollected bills.
Also in this year’s budget, the March ambulance billing reduction total was the same as the amount for February, thus underestimating the March net result. Treasurer Nancy Layton said Dennis did not have time to update this portion of the budget.
Commission President Jerry Buchanan stressed that the Commission would have to devote more attention to the medical response reports in the future because the emergency medical incidents will be a significant contributor to IFPD’s revenues.
“These reports [of departmental medical calls] will be a key indicator of future revenues,” Buchanan said. “If medical billings go down, future income declines.”
For example, the total medical calls, both transports to medical facilities and non-transports, increased from 29 in February to 38 in March. This compares to 36 in February 2013 and 33 in March 2013.
IFPD’s legal costs increased again in 2013, according to the audit report. They continue to grow this year. In September, the commission budgeted $20,500 for legal expenses. Actual expenditures this year were nearly $24,200 through February and another $7,000 (nearly a third of the budget amount) was recorded in March, for a total of $31,200.
A draft of the budget for fiscal year 2014-15 may be available next month, Reitz said. A tentative budget must be approved by July 1 and a final budget before Oct. 1.