By Kris Kirschbaum
The Idyllwild Fire Protection District Finance Committee met Wednesday, June 14, but without a full quorum, the committee met as an ad-hoc committee to review the budgets for May 2016-17 and review the 2017-18 budget.
Chief Patrick Reitz was present for the first 15 minutes of the meeting and left for another meeting after praising Battalion Chief Mark Lamont’s efforts to keep the budget in good shape. Reitz said that in the last five years, Lamont has projected budgets that match revenues and expenditures within a very small margin of difference. He left saying that he was confident the budget was in good hands.
After the chief left, the ad-hoc committee of three combed through the budget with line-by-line precision. Commissioner Jerry Buchanan and Community Committee Member Calvin Gogerty repeatedly asked Lamont about items listed in the 2016-17 budget that was accurate as of end of May 2017. The committee discussed variations between the budget projected for this year and current revenue and expenditures.
The three also reviewed items projected for 2017-18 compared to the current year. The fiscal year ends at the end of June, and as of June 14, the district is operating in the black. Grant money and changes in personnel (retirement and resignation) contributed to a positive balance of the budget.
Overall anticipated revenues for next year are expected to increase by 4 percent. The increased revenue matches the 4-percent expected increase for expenditures.
As discussed at the last full board meeting, the projected budget for 2017-18 includes a $17,000 line item to fund a communication firm as consultants help pass a new Measure W. In order to accommodate that budget item, the budget proposes that the emergency medial services coordinator position be cut, and the responsibilities spread over existing personnel.
Other changes between the current year and the next fiscal year include anticipated reduced cost to repair vehicles next year since a significant amount of over-due maintenance was conducted and paid for during the current fiscal year, and a large amount of grant money helped pay for new personal protection equipment that was matched with IFPD funds.
Two revenue sources were scrutinized during the meeting. Lamont explained that two sources of income, ambulance service and mutual aid fire assistance, account for roughly half of the revenue accumulated by IFPD. Both are “fee for service” items where money is received for assistance provided to individuals or agencies. Charges from ambulance services are one of the largest revenue items on both this year’s budget and next year’s.
Mutual Aid Fire Service is another large source of revenue IFPD receives to assist other districts in fighting wildland fires. Once IFPD crews have assisted for roughly 12 hours, the district receives compensation for the assistance provided to the other districts. Current fiscal-year assistance was provided for fires in Georgia, Tennessee, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, to name a few locations. Between the MAFS and revenue collected from ambulance services, IFPD makes up the shortage between what is collected through tax revenues and operating costs of the fire department.
Further detail on the budgets for the current year and projections for next year are available on the IFPD website. Other explanations and hard copies of the detailed budget are available from Lamont. The 2017-18 budget will be presented at the next regularly scheduled commission meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 27.