At the next Idyllwild Fire Protection District board meeting, April 26, the finance committee expects to have a report and recommendation on a possible new tax measure, said finance committee Chair and Commissioner Nancy Layton.
The finance committee has been discussing the substance and amount of possible tax increase for more than month. It has held several special meetings and will meet at least twice more (March 31 and April 20) before its recommendation goes before the full commission.
In her report to the commission, Layton wrote, “It is apparent to all members of he committee that a new tax is needed.”
In response to a question from President Jerry Buchanan, Layton confirmed that the finance committee hopes to place the measure on the November ballot.
During last week’s meeting, the commission approved changes to its policy on committees and a new policy, which specifies how the finance committee will function and operate.
The finance committee will now be composed of two commissioners (one of whom will be the board treasurer) and three community members. One of these members will be thefinance committee chair, beginning in July.
Mark Lonsbury, currently the alternate finance committee community member, was unanimously appointed as the third community member. Calvin Gogerty and Sue Weisbart are the other two community members. To implement the staggered-term policy before the July commission meeting, the community members will let chance determine the length of each member’s term, which will begin July 1 or the first July meeting. So one member’s term will expire next July, but thereafter be for three years. In July 2018, a second term will expire and the appointee will begin a full three-year term. Thereafter, all will be serving for three years unless they resign sooner.
In other financial news, Layton reported that through the end of February, expenses exceeded revenue by nearly $160,000. However, in the next four months, IFPD and other special districts, will receive at least two more property tax payments from Riverside County.
Nevertheless, she pointed out two areas where costs are substantially exceeding the budget. The account for “vehicle equipment maintenance and repair” is already $6,000 over its $4,200 budget. “Some of this is anticipated, given the aging equipment involved and wear and tear our vehicles and portable equipment receive through normal usage.”
“Legal costs” is the second budget account with a deficit and Layton expects those costs to continue to grow. Currently, IFPD has paid nearly $65,000 in legal expenses, of which almost $55,000 is for the dismissal of former Capt. James Reyes.
Layton stated that the commission has rejected an administrative law judge’s preliminary decision on the case and wrote, “… we will be spending yet more money on the case that we believe is necessary.” Last fiscal year, IFPD’s legal costs exceeded $100,000.
IFPD also reported that overtime pay for its three captains was more than $9,000 in February and overtime for firefighters and engineers was about $750 altogether. For the eight months of the fiscal years, captains’ overtime pay has been about 40 percent more than the total for the two lower ranks.
On the revenue side of the ledger, Fire Chief Patrick Reitz reported that in the first eight months of the fiscal year, the number of patients treated or transported has increased about 10 percent and charges have increased almost the same. Payments have declined more than 10 percent, to $255,000 from $285,000. But outstanding bills are up, too.
Layton also confirmed that IFPD will not dispose of its ladder truck because that contributed to the improved ISO rating. Also, the district is considering entering the inter-facility medical transport business sometime in the future. No costs or benefits of this enterprise have been presented yet.
In other financial news, Buchanan said the “meet and confer” committee has had several meetings with the career firefighters and is nearly finished its negotiations. He hopes to have a proposed contract within the next few weeks.
In other business, Commissioner Larry Donahoo reported that Louisiana Pacific Corp., Northwest Factory Finishes, of Bonner, Montana, and Capital Lumber Co. from Chino have agreed to donate materials to replace the siding on the Fire Station. That work will begin later in June and the District will be recruiting volunteers to help.