Bill would provide more funds for W.Va. volunteer fire depts.

Funds would go toward workers’ compensation and would release more money to individual fire departments

By Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times News

KEYSER, W.Va. — The West Virginia State Firemen’s Association is asking for public support of a proposed Senate bill that would provide additional revenue for volunteer fire departments.

“Senate Bill 168 deals directly with funding for fire departments for relief for workers’ compensation. With this bill, money would generally go toward workers’ compensation and would release more money to individual fire departments,” said Chad Lindsay, president of the Mineral County Firefighters Association.

If the bill passes, the fire departments would then in turn have more money for equipment, Lindsay said.

“Things are slowly getting worse. Workers’ compensation has been a Band-Aid fix from legislatures every year. This is the first time in five year there is a viable decent fix for workers compensation,” Lindsay said.

The bill, which is currently stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, would also provide additional revenue for the Public Employees Insurance Agency and municipal pension plans.

If the bill passes, it will lower insurance ratings of fire departments, which in turn would lower yearly homeowner’s insurance policy premiums, Lindsay said.

“The sad reality is, fire departments all over the State of West Virginia are closing their doors due to a lack of funding,” writes John Holstein, West Virginia State Firemen’s Association president in a news release.

A Mingo County Fire Department’s ISO rating went from a 9 to a 6-A, which led to a 47 percent drop in some homeowner’s insurance, Holstein said.

“The volunteer fire service is the only organization in the state which relies on meager funding that directly affects every single person within the borders of West Virginia. The volunteer fire departments have never received an increase in their funding from the state, yet the costs associated with keeping the doors to the fire stations open has consistently risen,” Holstein said.

If the bill passes, it would increase the surcharge on the homeowner’s insurance from fifty-five one hundredths of 1 percent to 1 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Based on a $1,900 per-year policy, the tax increase would be $8.55 per year (0.45 percent), compared to saving $900 per year, Holstein said.

Those that fail to pay the surcharge are liable for a civil penalty of up to $100 for each day of delinquency, according to the bill.

Holstein urges residents to contact Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam, committee chair of the finance committee at 304-357-7901 and ask that the bill to be placed on the agenda.

Copyright 2017 the Cumberland Times News

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