After a long review of the current budget status, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s Finance Committee agreed to recommend that the commission establish a reserve account. This is the first reserve in five years, according to Committee Chair/Commissioner Nancy Layton.

“We need to segregate these funds from the operating account,” Layton stated. “The windfall from the cell-tower lease is our first opportunity.”

The committee suggested that $25,000 be set aside to begin accumulating revenues to offset the unfunded liabilities, which will officially face the district in July as the new fiscal year begins.

In February, the commission accepted a recently completed actuarial study, which estimated IFPD’s cost to fund all expected post-retirement health-care costs for existing employees and retirees to be about $40,000 annually.

Rob Dennis, the district’s financial contractor, said the unfunded retirement costs for CAL PERS will begin to appear on IFPD’s balance sheet in July.

Sometime in the future, the committee hopes to recommend establishing a reserve account for major maintenance and construction at the fire station.

Although IFPD has had nearly $220,000 from the sale of a long-term tower lease in October 2013, the committee felt the uncertainty over how the recent purchase of two new ambulances will be financed, limited its ability to set aside more funds.

“The [fire] chief says the funding potential is limited. He’s finding lenders are reluctant to finance an expense so small,” Layton told her committee colleagues. “It will have to come from reserves unless we can finance it.”

The ambulances cost about $90,000 and more money will be expended preparing them for service. This will include work such as repainting and applying the district’s logo to the vehicles.

Although about $100,000 would be unassigned, the final result of the current year budget depends upon receipt of about $50,000 from the state for prior-year emergency medical work, for which IFPD did not receive reimbursement.

If these funds arrive before July, the committee forecasts a balance of $37,000 excluding the ambulance costs. If the funds’ receipt continues to be delayed, the deficit will be greater. Consequently, committee members wanted to be cautious about putting too much in reserves now.

The unfunded liability reserve or a new infrastructure reserve could be augmented after the fiscal year begins in July.

The committee reviewed the current fiscal-year budget, which ends June 30, and made some changes to revenue and projected expenses. The two largest were adding the expected $50,000 re-imbursement for past emergency medical services and increasing the legal services account from $25,000 to $50,000. In January, the committee had planned to increase it $10,000 but decided more was needed.

“I suggest the adjustment is not enough to pay for our legal services,” committee member Sue Weisbart said and Calvin Gogerty, the other citizen member, concurred. Layton recommended the increase to $50,000.

After the current budget review finished, Weisbart recommended that “… the commission adopt the revised budget with the understanding that the categories would be revisited prior to the end of the fiscal year.”

The committee also agreed to recommend that the commission change the regularly scheduled Finance Committee meetings to 2 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month, from Tuesday.