Get your financial reports in on time.
Washington County government's funding gate slams shut on any of its 27 volunteer fire and rescue companies if that company misses its annual deadline for filing the required reports.
The deadline is three months after a company's budget year ends.
For 14 of the companies, that is June 30 — so their reports are due by Sept. 30. For the other 13, the budget year ends Dec. 31 — so their reports are due by March 31.
"Any company that has not submitted their reporting within this three-month period shall have all public funds withheld until the report is submitted," the county's rules state.
"Failure to produce these financial reports within nine (9) months of the closing of the company's fiscal year shall imply a forfeiting of all public funds withheld during that period," the rules say.
For each company, the amount of money at risk is substantial.
In general, the county fully reimburses each company for the previous year's payments for the electricity, heating fuel, and water and sewer service used at the stations.
And it gives $24,500 as a basic subsidy to each of the six volunteer companies in Hagerstown and $48,000 a year to each of the 21 companies outside the city. Boonsboro's fire company, Community Rescue Service, Halfway's fire/EMS company and Williamsport's fire/EMS company each gets an extra $48,000 because it has more than one station or are two operations combined.
The Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, Md.
In addition, since summer 2010, the county has been giving each of the eight ambulance companies an extra annual subsidy, ranging from $60,226 to $309,236. The money is to be used to ensure there are enough paid workers to provide emergency medical service (EMS) seven days a week, 24 hours a day, countywide.
As a condition of receiving the emergency medical service subsidies, the ambulance companies are required to provide "any financial or operational information required for provision of EMS staffing."
If an ambulance company is more than 30 days late in turning over the information, its subsidy will be cut by 10 percent or more, according to last year's revision of the rules.
Budget figures show that those basic fire, rescue and extra EMS subsidies, plus the utility reimbursements, cost county taxpayers just over $3.5 million during fiscal 2011, which ended June 30.
In addition, the county spent $244,288 reimbursing EMS companies for ambulance fuel and maintenance costs that year.
The combined total of $3.7 million in direct payments to the fire and ambulance companies is more than half the $7.1 million the county budgeted to spend that year on the local fire and rescue system.
Included in that $7.1 million is the money that Maryland law requires the county to take from its gaming fund and give to the county Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association.
During fiscal 2011, that totaled roughly $950,000. The Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association keeps part for its own operations and gives the rest to its members, the 27 volunteer companies.
Also included is the more than $2.3 million the county planned to spend on indirect support of the fire and rescue system. This money paid for such expenses as insurance and the Length of Service Award Program retirement benefits for fire and EMS volunteers.
Except for the indirect expenses, the annual financial reports are supposed to spell out for the county how the fire and ambulance companies spent and invested that money, plus millions more from their own tip jars, bingo, bonanzas and other sources.
How much money all the companies raised and spent during the 2011 budget year isn't known yet.
All 27 fire and rescue companies have submitted financial reports for their 2010 budget years.
The 27 fire and rescue companies received more than $13.6 million total that year from several funding sources, including the county, and spent more than $12.9 million, according to The Herald-Mail's review of their financial reports.