A new policy laying out the goals and operations of the finance committee was one of the main topics at the committee’s meeting last week. However, much of the time was devoted to working with financial consultant Rob Dennis to identify reports he committee could use to monitor IFPD’s financial status.

One major change to the committee’s future operations was the decision to change the composition to include three public members and two commissioners, including the board treasurer. Currently, there are two members of the public — Calvin Gogerty and Sue Weisbart — serving on the finance committee and one alternate — Mark Lonsbury.

“It was always my belief this committee was designed to be a direct conduit from the community to the board,” said Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz, supporting the idea.

After the new policy is adopted, the three community committee members will have staggered terms and one of them will be the committee chair. Since its beginning two years ago, Commissioner Nancy Layton has chaired the committee.

The committee intends to review a revised draft policy at its March meeting and plans to move it to the commission meeting in March, too.

Each of the committee members had thoughts about what financial data would be appropriate in financial reports and how to present it. The exchange with Dennis resulted in agreement to prepare several new reports. Dennis hopes to have these available to committee members for the March meeting.

Examples of the new financial reports are a monthly vendor report, a complete monthly transactions report, a comparison of the budget, revenues and expenditures, year-to-date with past years, and more information on the reconciliation of the bank balances.

“We’ll try. I don’t want to deny them anything. Every report that goes to the board should go to the finance committee,” Reitz said to Dennis.

Lonsbury urged the committee to make available on its website all the reports the committee receives.

“My goal is transparency so that the public has no problems understanding our finances,” he stated.

The committee reviewed the financials through January and began identifying accounts that will need adjusting when the committee does a mid-year budget review in March or, likely, April.

Through January, revenues have been about $1.1 million and expenses have totaled about $1.15 million, or $50,000 more than revenues.

The committee felt several accounts would need to be increased before the end of the fiscal year (June 30). IFPD already has spent $46,000 of its $50,000 legal services budget, which is among the accounts needing adjustment. CalPERS appears to be underfunded, as well as the vehicle maintenance account, according to Gogerty.

Dennis explained that CalPERS changed how it funded its program and IFPD’s new payment is less than originally budgeted, perhaps by $25,000.

Vehicle-maintenance costs have already exceeded the original budget amount of $4,200 by $6,000. Also, Reitz told the committee he just received an $8,000 estimate to do work on one of the new ambulances, which would increase the need for more money in that account.

However, he stressed that the total cost to purchase the two ambulances a year ago, and the subsequent maintenance and operational expenses is still significantly less than the cost of a brand-new ambulance.

“We’re still watching the markets for ambulances,” he said.

Reitz indicated that IFPD might need between $10,000 and $15,000 more for legal expenses. But a better estimate should be available within a few weeks.

Gogerty reported that he has met with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials and is optimistic that IFPD is eligible for some grants or low-interest loans to purchase new equipment. This may go to the commission in the next few months for approval to apply.