Six weeks before the beginning of fiscal year 2014-15, the Finance Committee for Idyllwild Fire Protection District does not have a proposed budget to review. The committee recognized the department would need an influx of additional revenue in the future. When, the sources and the use will be discussed in future meetings.
Committee Chair Nancy Layton is planning to call another meeting for the latter part of next week for the committee to pass some review of next year’s budget prior to its adoption at the district’s June 10 meeting.
In addition to the delay drafting a future budget, the committee encountered difficulties with the current year (2013-14) budget. Layton expressed displeasure with the differences in the committee’s budget records and what financial services contractor Robert Dennis provides them.
For example, Layton said more than $300,000 of property tax revenue had been deposited in January. However, Dennis’ budget records indicated the district only received $163,000.
“Not only do we not have accurate numbers, but the summary report is not accurate. Thus, we’re sending discrepancies to the commission. I’m not happy with that,” she said. “This needs to be quickly fixed.”
Based on Dennis’ report, at the end of April, IFPD’s expenses were between $175,000 and nearly $400,000 greater than its revenue. The difference is whether the $218,000 from the cell tower’s one-time lease sale is part of the current budget or placed in reserves.
But the current bank account balance, which includes most of the May property tax revenues, exceeds $500,000. Even including the lease revenue, IFPD would have nearly $300,000 for the expenses occurring during the final month of the fiscal year. Through April, the average monthly expenses have been about $140,000.
“I cannot at this moment rely on the numbers in revenue,” Layton said.
In other financial business, committee member Susan Weisbart discussed her analysis of the dispatch contract costs. She concluded that those costs would increase about $20,000 next fiscal year.
However, Weisbart also concluded that IFPD’s contract costs were lower than hiring the staff to perform the function. “At 800 calls per year [the figure in the IFPD request for proposal] is equivalent to one full-time person,” she said. “You can’t hire one person for $83,000 [the IFPD share of the dispatch contract].”
She also had discussions with other dispatch entities and learned that Riverside County’s costs were too low for competition.
She recommended continuing the contract and finding other revenue to offset its costs. As an example, she suggested requesting the county increase the Transient Occupancy Tax by 2 percent for the Idyllwild area. The county could reserve these additional TOT revenues for Idyllwild’s share of the dispatch contract.
Using the TOT revenue as a source for new revenue came from Weisbart’s belief that “… a lot of our calls from non-residents such as visitors at motels, rentals and camps.”
Without additional revenue, alternate committee member Calvin Gogerty suggested cost reductions. “If we can’t get revenue we’d like, what services will we cut?” he suggested for future discussions.