Financial issues dominated the agenda of the June 23 Idyllwild Fire Protection District meeting, as the commission began preparing for the coming fiscal year.

The budget for fiscal year 2015-16 was adopted unanimously, 4-0. President Jerry Buchanan was absent. The preliminary budget was identical to the draft presented at the May meeting, according to Fire Chief Patrick Reitz. Estimated revenues will be about $1.7 million. The diminishing revenue, about $150,000, is due to the loss of the contract with the county for ambulance service to Pine Cove.

Consequently, he also said he expected expenditures to decline $140,000, to about $1.7 million. IFPD expects reduced legal expenses next fiscal year, and salaries and benefits to remain about the same.

Ambulance rate increases since 2011 are resulting in a significant payback to the district. Through the end of May, ambulance collections were nearly $400,000 while the projected amount for the full fiscal year (ending June) was $340,000. In fiscal year 2013-14, actual ambulance revenues were $330,000.

“We have almost $200,000 outstanding at the end of month in anticipated income,” Reitz told the commission. “In May, the collection rate was very good.”

The commission approved a resolution to request an advance of property tax receipts from the county. From July through the middle of December, the cash flow is limited to ambulance collections because IFPD receives no property tax or assessments during that period.

The commission’s request for advance payment will be $350,000, a $50,000 increase from last year. This is the first request for a larger advance in the five years since IFPD has been using this process. Prior to 2014, IFPD had requested at least a $400,000 advance.

California’s constitution authorizes a county to lend available funds to a special district. IFPD’s annual property tax revenue exceeds $1 million, so the request is repaid from the December and January tax receipts, which the county collects.

The commission also passed the resolution reauthorizing the annual special assessment of $65 per unit, collected through county property tax.

Other financial issues involved contracts for the approaching fiscal year. While the audit of fiscal year 2014-15 is supposed to begin next week, according to Reitz, the commission approved an increase in the contract payment by $1,000 in order for the auditors, Charles Z. Fedak & Co. of Cypress, to prepare the financial statement this year. Last year, the financial consultant, Rob Dennis, prepared these forms, but according to Reitz and Finance Chair Nancy Layton, a timing and quality-of-data issue contributed to Fedak’s delayed product. For the next audit, the district decided to have Fedak prepare these statements with Dennis’ data.

“I’m torn on issues as to who should be doing what,” Reitz said. Retiz did say that it would have no affect on Dennis’ payments, which is a fixed annual amount of about $17,500. Also, having the auditor prepare the financial statements meant they were done by an independent source, the chief emphasized.

Two other contracts may have greater effect on fiscal year 2015-16 expenditures. The commission authorized Reitz to complete negotiations with Riverside County Fire Department for the dispatch services. Reitz indicated he had a concern with a couple of sections and hopes to work out an agreement with the county. While the contract is for three years, through 2018, Reitz stressed that if IFPD found a less expensive alternative, they could end the contract with a 60-day notice.

Also, Firefighter Adam Rodriquez, Idyllwild Career Firefighters Association president, agreed to extend the current memorandum of understanding between the association and district through Sept. 30. Its original expiration date was June 30, 2015.