The Finance Committee of the Idyllwild Fire Protection District is planning to recommend details for a new tax measure to the district’s commissioners in November.

While specifics on the amount to be requested were not available, the committee is preparing to justify and promote the idea.

Committee Chair and Commissioner Nancy Layton said, “We have no details yet, … The goal for [the committee] and for any friends of Idyllwild Fire is to assist with promoting the measure. We’ll inform the public why it’s needed, who we are and present issues in a way the people understand what they’re voting on.”

At the September commission meeting, President Jerry Buchanan raised the question of forming an ad hoc committee to develop a strategic plan for the district. He asked Commissioner Rhonda Andrewson, who volunteered to serve on the committee, to draft a proposal, which would be discussed at the October meeting. This item is on the agenda for the Oct. 27 meeting.

When asked how the tax measure can be drafted before completing a strategic plan, Layton replied, “They’re linked but not entirely. The Strategic Plan will include the tax measure.”

Committee member Sue Weisbart added that she did not want any sunset provision attached to the measure and recommended developing an annual inflation formula for future years.

Besides its share of property tax receipts, IFPD imposes an annual unit fee of $65 per structure on district property owners. In 2011, voters rejected doubling the rate.

Earlier in the meeting, Sherry Ann Wayne, the temporary administrative assistant, made a presentation on the revenue from special abatement inspections. Layton and Weisbart felt the district was not receiving payment for completed inspections and not being notified to conduct inspections whenever a property entered escrow.

Wayne reported that 32 property closings occurred in August, according to the local realtors association, but IFPD only performed inspections on and received payment for seven of them. “Realtors are not requesting the inspections,” she stated.

Layton asked Wayne and IFPD Capt. Jack Peckham to report on the issue at the November commission meeting. One issue left unresolved was whether the district has enacted its own ordinance for abatement inspections or is relying on the Riverside County ordinance.

The overall financial status was not discussed at the meeting since the committee did not have the current fiscal year financial reports to review.

Layton stated, “There is a lot of contention and discussion of the accuracy of the accounting as given to the committee in the reports.”

Disappointment with the performance of IFPD’s financial accountant, Rob Dennis, was expressed. “We’re two and half years into a three-year contract and quite honestly, we’re still not satisfied with the service,” Layton stated.

However, a significant portion of the problem, according to Layton, is the accounting software, which makes the development of specially designed reports extremely difficult. To eliminate this problem, Layton said the software would be replaced this week.

Layton also discussed the possibility of assigning some of the financial responsibility to the administrative assistant. But the committee did indicate that, if this option were chosen, attention to stronger internal controls would be needed first.