The Finance Committee for the Idyllwild Fire Protection District met last week to review its budget halfway through the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The goal was to identify possible accounts that may need adjusting during the commission’s budget review.

Financial consultant Rob Dennis’ balances through the end of December show expenditures are currently about $250,000 greater than revenues. But this is typical for most Riverside County special districts at this point in the fiscal year, since the majority of their property tax revenue arrives between January and May.

While there was some discord regarding the committee’s ability to regard the reports as representing accurate balances, the committee, including Fire Chief Patrick Reitz, were unperturbed about the six-month results.

Committee Chair and Commissioner Nancy Layton opined, “We’re pretty much on target. The bottom line supports that.”

Nevertheless, committee members Jeanine Charles-Stigall, also a commissioner, and Sue Weisbart expressed concerned about the figures’ accuracy.

“I have no faith in the accuracy of the reports,” Weisbart stated.

Payroll costs, which represent about half of the budget, ended December at about 53 percent of the total, which Layton described as comfortable at the mid-point.

Within the totals, salary costs for the fire chief and three captains were about 50 percent. However, expenditures for the firefighter rank have been nearly 95 percent of the total allocation, while expenditures for the engineer rank have only been about 17 percent of the total.

Reitz also pointed out that the overtime pay for the captains, which is nearly $12,000 (25 percent) greater than the allocation, is misleading since none of the overtime costs have been assigned to the campaign fire account yet.

“I weigh in with Sue,” Charles-Stigall said. “So many numbers may be misposted; it raises a lot of questions.”

Weisbart recommended the committee refrain from recommending any budget changes until next month.

“I’m not recommending ‘no changes.’ I’d like to wait until the financials are corrected. Then I’d like to revisit them,” Weisbart urged the committee, who agreed.

Since no large account overspendings were noted, Reitz agreed that a mid-year review could still be held at eight or 10 months. But he noted, “The biggest unknown now is our legal costs. I expect a large bill in January.”

Last fiscal year, IFPD spent more than $100,000 on legal expenses and budgeted $50,000 this year. The financial report says legal costs through December were $36,700 (nearly 75 percent of the total).

Layton acknowledged that migration of the financial data to the new software system acquired in the fall has not occurred. She hopes it will be done for the February meetings.

IFPD also announced that the Jan. 26 commission meeting has been canceled.