County Gives Idyllwild Fire District Cash Advance

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County supervisors today approved a $400,000 loan to the cash-strapped Idyllwild Fire Protection District to cover personnel and other expenses that cannot be deferred until the state distributes the district’s share of property tax revenue.

Without comment, the board voted 5-0 to allocate the funding, as it has done at the district’s request since 2011.

”This is something we’ve done … because of the district’s budget situation,” Idyllwild Fire Protection District Chief Patrick Reitz told City News Service. ”The amount we ask for has dropped every year as the economy slowly rebounds.”

According to county Executive Office documents, the $400,000 is a little less than 85 percent of what the district is expecting to receive when the state disburses property tax receipts in January.

Under the terms of the contract between the county and district, the county will have claim on the district’s tax receipts until the loan is repaid in full.

The interest rate on the IOU — based on the county treasurer’s pooled funds rate — will be less than half a percent, accruing monthly.

Reitz, who was named chief earlier this year, said cash advances from the county are a result of ”deficit spending that ate away at reserves” under his predecessors.

The Idyllwild Fire Protection District employs 10 full-time firefighters, including the chief, as well as a part-time assistant, according to Reitz. There is also an active reserve firefighter program in place.

Personnel provide paramedic services in Idyllwild and the immediate surrounding area, including the community of Pine Cove. The 5-square-mile district is not under Cal Fire’s jurisdiction.

A fire protection district crew joined U.S. Forest Service and county firefighters in battling the 27,500-acre Mountain Fire, which was projected to be fully contained today. Idyllwild was threatened by the monster blaze and evacuations were ordered, but flames never reached the city limits.

Reitz told CNS that two water tender crews from the Idyllwild Fire Protection District were on the fire lines for a week.

”We have yet to see what is coming back to us in the way of reimbursement for overtime and other costs,” the chief said. ”We’re trying to determine whether we can get some disaster relief funding.”

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