Isle of Wight tweaks incentives for volunteer firefighters, medics

Published 5:47 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

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Isle of Wight County Supervisors voted unanimously on Feb. 2 to approve a request by the county’s Fire and Rescue Advisory Board to replace the car tax relief program offered to volunteer firefighters and medics with direct annual payments to the volunteers.

Prior to the vote, the county had offered up to $500 in car tax relief annually to firefighters who use their personal vehicle when responding to calls or commuting to and from a fire station – an incentive limited to firefighters who pay car taxes to Isle of Wight County.

According to Pat Humphries, Isle of Wight’s chief of emergency services, the change would expand the incentive to firefighters and medics who don’t live in Isle of Wight but come to volunteer. The county’s five volunteer fire departments and two volunteer rescue squads have seen a shift in their membership over the years, Humphries said, with more volunteers now coming in from outside of the county.

Going forward, firefighters and medics will receive $100 per year of service, up to a maximum of $500 for five or more years. The plan, Humphries said, is to make the payment prior to mid-April when federal and state income taxes are due.

The resolution passed by the Fire and Rescue Advisory Board states volunteers who meet the definition of “emergency medical services personnel” as written in Virginia Code 32-1-111.1, or a member of a volunteer fire department who “regularly responds to calls” or “regularly performs other duties for the emergency medical services agency or fire department” will be eligible to receive the payment. Each department’s chief will be responsible for certifying a list of who is and isn’t eligible to the county by Jan. 31.

Auxiliary members of a volunteer EMS or fire department will only be eligible if they hold office within the EMS agency or fire department itself, and not just the auxiliary organization.

Life members of a volunteer EMS or fire department who had been receiving the up-to-$500 tax credit will continue to receive the new incentive upon certification of their status by the department’s chief. But future life members whose status changes from active to inactive and who do not meet any of the other qualifications for participating members will not be eligible for the incentive.

Out-of-area volunteers already receiving an incentive from their home locality will need to choose whether to continue receiving that benefit or Isle of Wight’s new incentive. A provision of the Fire and Rescue Advisory Board’s resolution prohibits volunteers from receiving benefits for their service from more than one locality.