West Virginia State Auditor Glen Gainer III delivered the reimbursement check for the offset amount of $5,548.00 to the Madison Volunteer Fire Department. Through the efforts of our Legislature, the Governor’s Office and The West Virginia State Firemen’s Association, legislation was passed in the 2011 Session of the West Virginia State Legislature and a matching amount of money was acquired from the Governor’s office to offset the huge increase in worker’s compensation coverage that was expected to take place during fiscal year 2011 and 2012. Five million dollars was acquired through these sources to help offset the rising costs associated with workers compensation coverage.
Most of our State’s volunteer fire departments saw increases to the tune of 300%-400% and some are expected to rise to even higher rates. There’s many factors involved in these rate increases, some of the factors involve call volume, the number of emergency medical service calls the departments responded to and of course, an increase in the amount of wages formulated in the new workers comp plan and of course the overall risk liability seen by insurers.
Currently, approximately 1.7 million dollars have been delivered to two-thirds of the State VFDs for workers comp payments. The VFDs pay the full amount then submit their statements to the Auditor’s office for review. Based on previous worker’s comp premiums, the reimbursement amount is calculated above the previous amount. Once the Auditor’s office receives the statements and payment is authorized, it takes no more than 48 hours (24 optimally from start to finish) for the Auditor’s office to send out the reimbursement.
Within the coming months during Interim meetings at the Legislature, a permanent solution must be put in place to establish an income method to offset these worker’s comp increases. With appx. 421 volunteer fire departments in the state, covering 80%+ of the area and 70% of the population, there’s many that rely heavily on a minimal amount of money received from the insurance sur-charge. This money, divided evenly between all fire departments in the state, volunteer and paid departments alike, totals appx. $44,000 per department, per-year. With the rising costs of equipment and insurance alone, this isn’t enough to sustain many departments within the state as this money is the only guaranteed source of income for various departments across the state. Insurance alone, at a majority of volunteer fire departments exceeds $10,000 per year with some as high as $30,000 per year. Rising fuel costs, increased mandates for equipment replacement and safety guidelines set forth by various government and service agencies, place the operating budget of most departments well outside the limits of the meager $44,000 state fund.