A $100 Christmas bonus for volunteer Summerville firemen won’t be much of a gift, but more of a magician’s sleight of hand trick.
Each year the city allots $80,000 to pay its 13 volunteers. It’s a token amount to cover gasoline and other expenses incurred while responding to 800 to 1,000 calls annually.
A few weeks ago, the city council approved a $100 Christmas bonus for part-time workers. Since then, Summerville Fire Chief Robbie Lathem asked if his firemen could be included.
The council agreed but added that it would pay for the Christmas bonuses by using the $80,000 already allotted for firemen.
“The $100 per fireman is not a regularly budgeted item. It could possibly come from the $80,000 that is allocated to the volunteer firemen if you all are in agreement with that,” City Manager Janice Galloway said during a special called meeting Monday night.
“I recommend that we don’t give them $100. This was for part-time workers. Even at that, we need to understand that firemen are not part-time. It is volunteer. We need to take that under consideration. Discussion from council?” Mayor Harry Harvey said.
“Do they receive W-2s?” Councilman David Ford, who is a former fireman, asked.
The council received confirmation that each fireman gets a W-2 tax form each year.
“If you work for the city or do some work, you would get a W-2,” the mayor said.
“If they get a W-2 aren’t they considered an employee with the city? Isn’t what they do considered part-time?” Councilman Ford asked.
“No. They are not part-time,” the mayor said.
“Yeah they are,” Ford said.
“I would rather not get into that discussion as far as them not being part-time,” the mayor said. “There is a difference between being part-time and a volunteer.”
“We have a volunteer Army. I don’t understand all of this,” Ford said. “But they are still part-time, whether you call them volunteers or not. . .”
“You are talking about $1,200,” Councilman Earl Parris said.
“I know. We’ve got the money there for it,” Ford said.
“I think it’s a good gesture and I’m all for it,” Councilman Joe Money, Jr., said.
“That’s going to come out of the $80,000,” the mayor said.
“Yes sir,” Money said.
Recently the council approved giving a $300 Christmas bonus to its 79 fulltime employees and $100 for part-time employees. The council earmarked $26,589.55 for those bonuses.
“Don’t we have the money that we did these other [city employees] with?” Ford asked.
“No. It’s not budgeted,” the mayor said.
“It was allocated to each department under salaries. So, it was in the budget, but it was under that line item for each department. It was not included in the regular salaries. But [the firemen] have the $80,000 that they divide up among the volunteers,” the city manager said.
“So, they really aren’t getting the $100, because they would already receive that at the end of the year. You are just taking that away from them. You are just giving them $100 now instead of then. Pay me now or pay me later type thing. I think they deserve it,” Ford said.
“David, but you’ve got to think of all the other volunteers the city has. They could come up and ask, ‘Where is my $100?’ Because the city has a lot of volunteers,” Galloway said.
“They do. They are not getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning in December and fighting fires all night long,” Councilman Money said.
“Also, the Summerville Fire Department got your ISO rating down from a 6 to a 4 and saved everybody a ton of money. Then they got it down to a 3 and we can’t give them $1,200? How much money did it save the city?” Ford asked.
“I’m sure we’ve got the money somewhere,” Councilman Buddy Windle said.
“It’s in the $80,000. That is available,” the mayor said.
“Mayor are you waiting on a motion to be made?” Councilman Parris said.
“I’ll be happy to make that motion that the fire department receives their $100. Merry Christmas,” Parris said.
“And it comes out of their $80,000. I have a motion. I need a second,” the mayor said.
“I second that,” Money said.
The motion passed unanimously.
“We still did not give them $100,” Ford added.