Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz told the Idyllwild Fire Protection District commission last week that he plans to ask Riverside County to extend the current fire and medical emergency dispatch contract for another year.
While no organizations responded to IFPD’s March Request for Proposal, Reitz said the one-year extension would still allow IFPD to explore other long-term alternatives. (Reitz said later that the RFP was sent to the cities of Corona, Riverside, Hemet, Murrieta, Cathedral City and Palm Springs, as well as the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.)
However, Reitz did warn the board to expect the contract cost to increase a minimum of $20,000. “[This increase] far outpaces any [consumer price index] and should be cause for concern. It’s unconscionable.”
Also on the agenda was a review of IFPD’s ambulance fees and approval of new rates. Reitz said the county Medical Emergency Service Agency set the ceiling on increases for next year at 1.8 percent for all geographical areas IFPD covers and that is the amount he will submit to the commission for approval next month.
Prior to releasing that information, however, Reitz had presented a table comparing the current levies with a range of increases of 3, 4, 5 and 10 percent. He said the percentages were arbitrarily chosen and then later learned that IFPD’s county contract to provide ambulance service to County Service Area 38 (Pine Cove) and Zone 3 (north of Pine Cove) limits the maximum annual increase to 5 percent and provides a formula for calculating the potential increase, which is 1.8 percent for next year.
At the June 10 meeting, the commission also plans to adopt a preliminary budget for fiscal year 2014-15, which begins July 1.
The review of the current year budget was also deferred because the April totals were not available. Through March, expenses had exceeded revenue by nearly $160,000. However, special districts receive a major portion of their property tax revenue from the county in May.
The current checking account balance is about $520,000, including the $218,000 from the lease sale of the cell tower in September.
Revenue from IFPD’s emergency medical services, such as ambulance transports, raised some concerns for Reitz and President Jerry Buchanan. They both noted that the number of medical calls declined in April, an omen of declining revenue in two or three months, they said.
Through April, IFPD has responded to 154 total medical calls. Of these, 87 (56.5 percent) resulted in transports, compared to 101 in the same period last year.
“In April, we’ve had fewer patient encounters and thus less charges,” Buchanan observed. “Whenever we see either an uptick or downtick, 60 to 90 days later we see the same in revenue.”
Reitz agreed that the trend for outstanding collections was dropping. “This will or could translate into lower revenue,” Buchanan said. “Our business is primarily ambulance transports now,” he added.
Other financial business in June will include the acceptance of Charles Z. Fedak of Cypress (although the firm has an office Riverside) as the district’s next auditing firm. Reitz said this was the only response to the district’s recent RFP.
During his comments, Buchanan reaffirmed that the district will continue to follow the Brown Act (California’s open government legislation) and want to follow it in both the letter and spirit of the law.
“You have my assurance the board believes in the Brown Act and supports it, and will do its best in the future to follow the Brown Act,” he concluded.