The traditional late August special district election of fire commissioners may change in a few years. Idyllwild Fire Protection District President Jerry Buchanan asked his colleagues to consider a proposal to shift IFPD’s future elections to November general election ballots.

“It would give a better opportunity for more people to vote,” Buchanan said. “August is a typical vacation time.”

The November elections in even-numbered years alternate between presidential and gubernatorial elections, which have traditionally generated greater turnout than the late-summer mail-in elections.

Even though state and county turnout was historically low for the 2014 election, 63 percent of Idyllwild registered voters went to the polls in November. A total of 965 ballots were cast in the Idyllwild precinct four months ago compared to the about 591 in IFPD’s 2013 election.

The average number of Idyllwild registered voters casting ballots in the four general elections since 2008 was 1,310 compared to an average of 652 ballots cast in the past four IFPD elections.

The actual cost to conduct the election, about $4,000, would not change. The district will have to pay about $800 for a one-time notice to voters of the change in the election procedures, according to Buchanan.

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors must approve the change before it is implemented, Buchanan said. Also, it would not change the election scheduled for this summer, August 2015. The first election for which it would apply would be the commissioners whose terms are to end in December 2017.

Commissioners Rhonda Andrewson, Jeannine Charles-Stigall and Nancy Layton were all elected for four-year terms in August 2013. If the election were moved to a general election, their terms would be extended until December 2018, an additional year, Buchanan added.

The three-month period between the August election and the term beginning in December was Buchanan’s second argument in favor the change. He felt this was a long time to wait until being sworn into office.

In financial business, the commission received its first actuarial study of current and future retiree health-care costs. These type of studies are now required for all government levels, pursuant to the General Accounting Standards board.

If all the current employees continue their careers with IFPD until retirement and live an expected life span, IFPD’s estimated total cost for retiree benefits will be about $646,000. The consultant, Total Compensation Systems Inc., estimates the annual cost would be about $40,000.

To amortize the total unfunded liability for retiree benefits (excluding pensions which IFPD funds through CALPERS), IFPD would have to set aside about $46,000 annually, according to the study.

Fire Chief Patrick Reitz said the study’s results would be incorporated into the district’s 2013-14 audit, which he expects to be available at the March meeting.

“It gives us a base to start from and does give us more information if we want to refinance,” he told the commission.

In other finance matters, the commission agreed to review the current year budget and make any needed adjustments next month, too.

The commission approved the appointment of Calvin Gogerty to the district’s Finance Committee. Gogerty was formerly the alternate citizen member of the committee. An application for the alternate position will be available on the district’s website,

The commission also reviewed the fire ambulance report for January. Andrewson again expressed some concern about the number of reported false alarms.

Reitz explained that limitations on the reporting system result in an over-reporting of the number of false alarms. In many cases, he said, “No one is in violation. It’s regular ringing but for a valid reason.” As an example, Reitz described a local establishment where the wind changed and brought some smoke in through another entrance activating the alarm, although there was neither fire nor smoke from burning material.