The commissioners for the Idyllwild Fire Protection District adopted a budget for fiscal year 2015-16 at their Aug. 25 meeting.
The adopted budget modifies a preliminary budget approved in June. The major change was increasing revenues by $162,000 to $1.86 million from the original estimate of $1.70 million.
The principal reason is the expected reimbursement for costs to respond to numerous Northern California fires this season. The department’s costs for helping on these fires are reimbursed by the agency responsible for managing the fire, such as Cal Fire or the U.S. Forest Service. Since June, IFPD has increased its estimated costs from $96,000 to $240,000, an increase of $144,000 during the past two months.
The balance of the increased revenue comes from two grants IFPD recently has had approved. One is from the federal Volunteer Fire Assistance program and the second is a Homeland Security grant for active shooter.
Fire Chief Patrick Reitz told the commission that reimbursements often take a long time, sometimes more than a year to receive. “I may request that the state make immediate payment. They have deep pockets and why should we have the burden of absorbing the expense for them?” he said.
Expenditures were increased from $1.69 million to $1.84 million. Most of the activities increasing are related to work on the fires outside the district. For example, salary costs were increased $50,000. Also, another $12,000 was added to vehicle and equipment maintenance.
Unexpected costs of $34,000 to repair brush truck 621 are part of the additional expenditures.
Other smaller changes were added such as a fee for a departmental physician.
But during the meeting, Commissioner Rhonda Andrewson expressed concern about the estimated budget for legal expenses, which is $35,000. Last year, IFPD spent nearly $100,000 on legal services.
Earlier, Finance Committee Chair and Commission Treasurer Nancy Layton had mentioned that the legal cost budget was reduced. “Legal fees are significantly dropping because stuff in the last couple of years is quieting down,” she said.
Reitz explained that, in the absence of new grand jury investigations and no new hearings in the litigation involving the removal of former Capt. James Reyes, he thought the lower estimate was sufficient.
However, the commissioners agreed to Andrewson’s request to add another $15,000 for a total of $50,000 for estimated legal services.
The meeting concluded with a long discussion of choosing a format for conducting the chief’s annual evaluation. Once the board agreed, although Andrewson voted against the format, President Jerry Buchanan said the evaluation would occur before or at the September meeting.