Whatever the current financial situation of the Idyllwild Fire Protection District, the commission is confident there are sufficient funds to continue to cover its payroll through December when its first property tax receipt arrives.
Commission President Jerry Buchanan established a committee composed of commissioners Rhonda Andrewson and Nancy Layton to prepare a strategic plan for the future, and Finance Committee Chair Layton said her committee will be prepared to share the details of a possible tax increase at its November meeting.
“I see the two pieces merging,” Buchanan said. “It’s all part of the same process.” While the Finance Committee will look at options for more revenue, the Planning Committee will ensure the feasibility of potential projects that staff is recommending.”
“The two issues are co-dependent. The tax measure will consider a group of pieces important to the district,” Layton added.
As Layton explained, the absence of current financial reports was due to concerns about the accuracy of some of the data. Also, the committee and Fire Chief Patrick Reitz are considering re-assigning some of the financial workload from consultant Rob Dennis to the administrative assistant. Depending on the time needed to perform this work, this may reduce costs for the bookkeeping contract, Layton added. This change would compliment the committee’s decision to purchase new accounting software.
Despite lack of an accurate status report, both Layton and Buchanan were confident that cash flow for the remainder of the fall would be sufficient, especially to cover additional salary costs incurred because of IFPD crews going to multiple fires in Northern California as part of the agency’s mutual-aid commitment. However, reserves will be needed to help bridge the low-revenue period until more funds are available, Layton confirmed.
“I just checked the cash flow. It’s not wonderful, but not scary and we’re not at a nervous point,” Layton said and added that the ambulance revenue was a significant contributor to cash flow until the reimbursements are received.
Buchanan also added that Dennis advised him that cash flow was sufficient.
The commission also reviewed two policies. The district policy on check processing and the number of required signatures was re-approved without any changes.
The second addressed how IFPD would investigate allegations of fraud. After some review and discussion, Buchanan tabled it until the insurer could look at some of the language regarding the role of its general counsel.
Two ordinances also were reviewed and will be revised. Among the questions regarding current ordinance 471 about false alarms was whether a mandatory annual fire-alarm inspection should be imposed. Currently, according to Capt. Jack Peckham, the plans for alarm systems, which signal third parties, are reviewed before installation and only inspected before approval for operations.
Staff also will review the fees and fines associated with fire alarms and false alarms at the commission’s request.
The fire abatement ordinance also was reviewed and may be revised. Andrewson argued that before any property within the fire district changes ownership, a fire abatement inspection should be conducted and the existing owner should complete the abatement recommendations before the property closes and transfers.
“Why aren’t there mandatory abatement inspections on property when it is sold?” she asked her colleagues. “All property in escrow should meet the district’s compliance requirements.”
Transactions that involve realtors from off the Hill or private sales might slip through an ordinance that restrictive, according to Peckham.
Layton asked the staff to review compliance to the “written rule versus common sense.” Peckham replied and affirmed that there is “… a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.”