Financial topics dominated the latest Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s commission meeting. At the Oct. 23 meeting, the commission received and accepted its 2017-18 audit and Assistant Chief Mark LaMont presented the first-quarter results for 2018-19, the current fiscal year.

Chris Brown, senior partner in Fedak and Brown LLP of Riverside, presented the audit’s results. He quickly told the commission, “The audit concluded with an unmodified clean opinion. In our opinion, the financial statements present fairly the financial position of the fire department … we did not identify any material weaknesses.”

From the accountants’ perspective, IFPD’s net position is a negative $1.8 million. This is entirely the result of recent changes, which the accounting profession have implemented, to have government agencies fully account for their long-term pension and other post-employment benefits.

IFPD has a pension liability of $2.3 million and its other post-employment benefits result in another $450,000 liability. These liabilities indicate what will eventually be paid out to employees when they retire. These are not debts due today, Brown stressed.

Pension and post-employment benefit liabilities are quite common among public agencies. This is neither unique nor troubling for IFPD, Fire Chief Patrick Reitz stressed to the commission. CalPers manages IFPD’s pension benefits.

Brown also noted that IFPD’s net position has improved from last year and actual cash available, including reserves, is about $600,000.

In terms of the actual budget, revenues exceeded expenditures by $97,000 in FY 2017-18. However, this was about $110,000 less than the 2016-17 surplus.

Last year, revenue declined slightly, while expenses increased $95,000. The management report emphasized that the reimbursable funding (mutual aid) from other agencies, when IFPD sends crews to other fires, was a critical component of its revenues, which helps the department.

Both Reitz and LaMont emphasized how important going to these fires is to the crews’ effectiveness. “It’s great training and we get reimbursed,” LaMont said. This fire season, IFPD staff has worked more than 13,000 hours at fires elsewhere.

For the current fiscal year, IFPD has a slight deficit of $14,000 after the first quarter. This is attributable to the additional salary and benefit costs from going to the mutual-aid fires. IFPD will be reimbursed for these costs, as well as others.

Also, property tax revenue from Riverside County will not be distributed until late December and January.

In other business, the commission adopted a resolution changing its December meeting to the third Tuesday of December from the fourth. The fourth Tuesday typically is between Christmas and New Years. Consequently, it is often canceled.

“The Christmas holiday affects the meeting and I suggest we move it to the third Tuesday,” President Rhonda Andrewson said in favor of the change. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Meetings for January through November will continue to be the fourth Tuesday and start at 3 p.m.

Reitz also reported that Riverside County has returned the Advance Life Saving contract with some additions. The commission had voted to approve it at the September meeting. Reitz said that the county revisions were being reviewed.

In response to a question about the differences, Reitz said the county accepted most of the district’s recommendations but added administrative requirements, which he wants to review.

Also, Reitz and the commission were thankful for the community support at their Sept. 29 fundraising event. He estimated about $40,000 was raised.