At its July 12 meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors addressed two separate topics affecting local fire management.

Tax advance

The Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s request for a $400,000 advance of its share of property tax revenue will be on the agenda. IFPD has made these requests before and the board has not objected. Last year, the board approved the $350,000 request on Aug. 3.

“As in the past years, and as is the case with many agencies, the district utilizes  the advance process to receive its tax revenue prior to the current, regularly scheduled county distribution,” wrote Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz.

“The district continues to strive for ways to diversify and minimize the impact to its taxpayers while finding ways to improve the level of service,” he added. “One example of this is the improving of the ISO rating from a 4 to a 2. It is the district’s hope that the property and business owners are taking advantage of the improved rating to decrease their costs of fire insurance with their insurance carriers and/or the competitive market and comparative shopping.”

The state constitution authorizes counties to make these advance payments as long as the amount does not exceed 85 percent of the special district’s expected total tax revenue.

IFPD receives more than $1 million annually from the county property tax revenue, so this request is for substantially less that the authorized limit.

Cal Fire negotiations

The second fire topic is a list of issues for the county to negotiate with Cal Fire as the two organizations begin to draft a new agreement. Supvs. John Benoit (4th District and board chair) and Kevin Jeffries (1st District) submitted a list of topics for the county executive to bring to the table with Cal Fire.

Among the subjects was a recalculation of the state’s administrative rate charges. The supervisors believe local indirect cost expenses have not been considered in past calculations. Also, the supervisors want to add an overhead charge to the services that the county provides the state.

Besides specific financial issues, the supervisors advocated for several policy issues. First was a re-evaluation of the roles and responsibilities of the county and Cal Fire. Secondly, the board wants to hold regular meetings with the Cal Fire director.

Finally, the board wants some latitude on the staffing policy for three-person fire engines. The current policy is a captain, a fire engineer and a firefighter, and when possible, at least one of these individuals would be either an emergency medical technician or paramedic.

The supervisors suggested more flexibility, such as a captain and two firefighters, or an engineer and two firefighters.