The Idyllwild Fire Department has begun inspecting local properties. Engineer Jim LaMont (left) and Firefighter David Reeves inspect the roof of a house. LaMont stressed that the homes that pass the inspection will not be notified, only inspection failures will be mailed. Re-inspections of the houses that fail will begin in early May, he added. He stressed that street address plates are often not easily seen from the street, especially at night. The inspections are emphasizing clearance around chimneys.
Photo by JP Crumrine

In an informal meeting, two members of the Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s Finance Committee discussed with staff the status of the current-year budget and progress on preparation of the fiscal 2017-18 budget last week.

After three-quarters of this fiscal year is competed, expenditures have exceeded revenue by only $4,300. IFPD has received 60 percent of its estimated property-tax revenue and expects the final 40 percent in the next two months, which should generate a positive net income at the end of the fiscal year.

For next fiscal year, which begins July 1, IFPD projects revenue will grow about 4.6 percent and expenses will grow about 4.4 percent, according to Battalion Chief Mark LaMont who presented the draft budget.

While property taxes may increase 3.3 percent, revenue from ambulance service is projected to grow from $380,000 this year to $445,000 next year, a 16.8-percent increase. But the third major revenue source, mutual aid, is not projected to grow more than $6,000.

While salaries are projected to increase about $70,000 to $1.1 million, the benefits category will increase about $67,000 or 13 percent. This is primarily for unfunded retiree healthcare benefits for CalPERS.

The salary growth is consistent with the IFPD’s agreement with the Career Firefighters Association, LaMont said. It also reflects that IFPD filled several vacancies this year and the anticipated retirement of Capt. Jack Peckham later this spring.

The rest of the budget is stable with small decreases anticipated. Major repairs were completed on the ambulance fleet and one of the engines this year so maintenance costs should decline, he added.

A separate capital budget was not included, but IFPD does expect that all of the financial payments for brush engine 621 and the squad will be by completed next year.

Commissioner Jerry Buchanan, a member of the finance committee, said, “It looks like a well-balanced budget. You’ll continue to revise it, and we’ll adopt a preliminary budget in May or June.”

This draft will be presented to the full commission at its April 25 meeting for comments before a preliminary budget is brought forward for approval.