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    Default Volunteer Compensation

    I am a member of a dept that has both fulltime ff/medics and volunteers with a variety of certs. The volunteers are currently paid a set amount in "clothing allowance" that is under the maximum amount before taxes must be filed. This has created some problems with some people devoting all their off time to the dept and getting paid the same as those who are never seen except at the annual parties and dispursement of checks. A group of us including our cheif have decided to explore other ways of fairly compensating the volunteers that actually are doing a large amount for the department and NEED this clothing allowance for uniforms. What does everyone elses department do? We would love a variety of ideas that we can possibly make into a hybrid system to fit our department. Thank you all.

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    Well here are the 2 options I can think of.
    1. You have to make a minimum percentage of calls to qualify for the uniform allowance.
    2. Pay per call.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EGregory View Post
    Well here are the 2 options I can think of.
    1. You have to make a minimum percentage of calls to qualify for the uniform allowance.
    2. Pay per call.
    What we do...
    1. You have to make a certain % of calls. (That % is set pretty low.)
    2. You have to make a certain number of hours to the trainings.
    3. You get paid per call and per training.

    So its simple, the more calls and trainings you make, the more you will make. We have had the issue (probably just like any other vollie dept.) of people not showing up and not training. To free up gear and give more guys the chance, we had to put it into writing and those that dont meet both minimums are let free of the dept.
    You will never get everyone to give as much as you want, but you can have steps in place to deal with those that give to little or nothing at all. Hope this helps.

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    We stratify it.

    If you make 60% of calls (minimum to remain "active") you get the full amount.

    From 40% to 60% it is something like half

    <40% you get nada.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    You guys get a uniform allowance?
    Lucky.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    We stratify it.

    If you make 60% of calls (minimum to remain "active") you get the full amount.

    From 40% to 60% it is something like half

    <40% you get nada.
    Chief, do you guys have a set amount a year per person and then they get docked on that or do they get so much per call but then if they dont make the 60% they only get half the pay for what they showed up to? (Did you follow me? lol)

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    What, you get "paid" for volunteering.

    We don't get paid, but do have minimum standards for the "benefits" that we do get. To maintain active membership status which allows you to vote, you need 60 points a year. Points are earned by running calls, training, meeting attendance, collateral duty and being an officer. There are maximum allowable points in each category and you must have points in at least 4 categories.

    We also require 10 calls per month to keep a locker and pager. Lockers are assigned based on call volume.

    The county provides some other incentives. I believe that they require 10 points a month for a 2 year period. Only 7 of those point can be for calls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tfpd109 View Post
    Chief, do you guys have a set amount a year per person and then they get docked on that or do they get so much per call but then if they dont make the 60% they only get half the pay for what they showed up to? (Did you follow me? lol)
    There is a set amount that sets the base. It's less then $500/year. I know other departments that get paid per call... to me (and I aint no accountant) that sounds like taxable income.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eng34FF View Post
    What, you get "paid" for volunteering.
    No, we get a clothing allowance.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    "volunteer compensation" is an oxymoron.

    If they're compensated, they aren't "volunteers." Anything beyond that is just arguing over "salary" like any other employee.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FIREguy2011 View Post
    You guys get a uniform allowance?
    Lucky.
    My thoughts exactly.

    Pay per call??? I wish. I know we'd have a lot better turnout if that happened.

    So do you return any unspent clothing allowance $$$??

    We are issued a dress shirt only. Occasionaly we will buy everyone logo shirts or jackets out of the volunteer fund.

    I do bill our volly dept. a nominal amount for major equipment repairs that they would otherwise have to pay a shop to do.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    If they're compensated, they aren't "volunteers." Anything beyond that is just arguing over "salary" like any other employee.
    Based on your statement, I have 40 "employees" (because they're not "volunteers") at my VFD since we get a small amount taken off of our annual vehicle tax as a measure of thanks from the county's Board of Supervisors?
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    Based on your statement, I have 40 "employees" (because they're not "volunteers") at my VFD since we get a small amount taken off of our annual vehicle tax as a measure of thanks from the county's Board of Supervisors?
    "Volunteers" are considered the same as "employees" in many senses anyway. (OSHA, Workers Compensation, etc.)

    Since they're receiving financial compensation, the term "volunteer" is definitely stretched a bit thin.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    Since they're receiving financial compensation, the term "volunteer" is definitely stretched a bit thin.
    Cool, I'll make a motion to scrape the word "volunteer" off the side of the rigs at the next business meeting.

    Let's coordinate schedules so you can come explain to my guys who are compromising their family time to run calls, go to training, and attend meetings that they aren't really "volunteering" their time, they're employees and the $100/year they have deducted from their taxes is plenty of compensation for their time and effort.

    I wonder where their portion of "volunteer" FICA goes?
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    Cool, I'll make a motion to scrape the word "volunteer" off the side of the rigs at the next business meeting.
    Great idea. We're working on that here, now that the IRS caught up with our "volunteers" and they're now part-time employees complete with W-2s.

    Let's coordinate schedules so you can come explain...
    What is there to explain? "Volunteers" don't work for compensation. That's not what "volunteer" means. Having been both a volunteer firefighters and a POC firefighter prior to going career, I at least understand the difference.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

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    That's a shame that they're having to do W2's. Luckily, the CPA that handles our books hasn't been faced with that proposition yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal
    "Volunteers" don't work for compensation.
    Our guys aren't working for compensation either. They're "working" because they enjoy what they're doing. They happen to receive a tax break. Is a tax break compensation? Are they "working for compensation"? It all sounds like semantics to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    That's a shame that they're having to do W2's. Luckily, the CPA that handles our books hasn't been faced with that proposition yet.
    I think most of us knew it was coming. Frankly, I'm just amazed it didn't happen sooner. Our "volunteer" compensation package -- all in the interest of "Recruitment and Retention" (aka bribery) -- was getting a bit insane. Some of the "volunteers" in our busier companies where making a nice little bundle of beer money tax-free on the side before the IRS started asking questions.

    Our guys aren't working for compensation either. They're "working" because they enjoy what they're doing. They happen to receive a tax break.
    Honestly? What's more important to them, the token tax break or knowing that they're truly volunteering? Make no mistake, I enjoyed being a volunteer back in the day and even on my POC department I turned my "fire pay" back over to the company more often than not. It just seems wrong to hold onto the title "volunteer" past the point when it's really accurate. It seems unfair to people who really do "volunteer" in the literal sense.

    It all sounds like semantics to me.
    If it was just semantics, people wouldn't be so upset at the notion that they might not actually be "volunteers" anymore.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187 View Post
    It all sounds like semantics to me.
    And it is.

    Even though I don't get a cent directly from the fire department, they do provide my workers comp coverage for fire-related injuries. A popular (but expensive) project in many areas is the LOSAP (Length of Service Award Program) - ie, a retirement program for volunteers.

    Both can be considered forms of compensation, thus, by some folks' definition, those receiving them aren't really "volunteers."

    As far as semantics go, I would submit that in most people's minds there are two types of firefighters - career and volunteer.

    Career firefighters are those for whom firefighting is their primary occupation. They may work in other fields during their off time, but their main paycheck usually comes from the fire department.

    Volunteer firefighters are those for whom firefighting is an avocation, something done in addition to their primary occupation.

    Of course, there are myriad variations on the theme, but I think those two definitions cover the bulk of it.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    During the summer fire season we respond out of district to wildland fires in whats called state response areas. These fires can last for days or weeks.

    Our department is compensated by the state for the apparatus and the crew gets paid nicely also. It was hot topic when we first started to do this. It seemed that the same 3 or 4 firefighters had a monopoly. Many, myself included, usually couldn't go for various reasons. Even when we were available we were passed over for the 'chosen few'.

    At one point I found myself on the last day of my vacation laying on the floor changing a starter in our wildland engine. I was asked to hurry because the crew couldn't get paid while the rig was out of service. I was 'volunteering' my time so that they could get paid.

    We've since then improved our policies regarding this issue
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    Quote Originally Posted by tree68 View Post
    Volunteer firefighters are those for whom firefighting is an avocation, something done in addition to their primary occupation.
    Let the record show that it was a volunteer who first referred to it as a hobby in this thread.

    Of course, there are myriad variations on the theme, but I think those two definitions cover the bulk of it.
    I think that you really need to add a third significant category, Paid-on-Call, whether John Q. Public understands the distinction or not. The blank spaces between volunteer & POC and POC & career can be gray areas but those three stand out as qualitatively distinct, IMHO.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

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    Default $$$

    We have Volunteers and they are paid per call. DeputyChief is correct and we will change next year to Paid-Call and Career Firefighters.
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    A clothing allowance is not compensation.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    A clothing allowance is not compensation.
    If I may ask, what is it then?
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    If I may ask, what is it then?
    An accountable or non-accountable reimbursement plan. Depends on how it is administered. Ideally as an accountable plan.

    Not to mention that there are other IRS rules that allow payment to volunteer firefighters that are excluded from income. There has also been some publications from the DOL about this very topic.
    Last edited by ChiefKN; 12-28-2010 at 10:15 PM.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    Let the record show that it was a volunteer who first referred to it as a hobby in this thread.
    A rather demanding one, as it were.

    I was actually taking my meaning from the Latin root - a (from) vocation (job/skill). Definition #3 here .

    But you are right - for many of us it is analogous to a hobby - something we do with our spare time. Some people garden, some play golf, some build model railroads. We fight fires.

    I think that you really need to add a third significant category, Paid-on-Call, whether John Q. Public understands the distinction or not. The blank spaces between volunteer & POC and POC & career can be gray areas but those three stand out as qualitatively distinct, IMHO.
    I don't disagree. But I do maintain that even a POC firefighter still fits my basic definition of someone for whom firefighting is not their primary job. The only difference between POC and "pure" volunteer when the tones drop is that the POC is gonna get a check later, and I'm not. They still have to worry about leaving work, getting up to go to work in the morning, etc.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    An accountable or non-accountable reimbursement plan. Depends on how it is administered. Ideally as an accountable plan.
    How does that affect whether or not it's compensation? Funding/reimbursing expenses is still a form of compensation.

    Not to mention that there are other IRS rules that allow payment to volunteer firefighters that are excluded from income. There has also been some publications from the DOL about this very topic.
    Not relevant to the question of compensation. The IRS rules simply delineate forms of compensation that are and are not taxable as income.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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