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Line-of-duty insurance passed to localities

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By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The cost of line-of-duty insurance for firefighters and police officers has been passed from the state to localities.

Until now, the state has funded the 1966 Line of Duty Act, which pays death benefits and health care costs for surviving spouses and children, according to documents provided to the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors.

A state budget amendment retroactively shifted the cost of existing and past liabilities under the act, according to a memo to the supervisors from County Administrator Doug Walker.

"This is one of many unfunded mandates that are sent down from Richmond to local government ... that we have to suck up," District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris said.
Shenandoah County's Sheriff's Office employees and fire and rescue personnel, both paid and volunteer, are covered by the county. It will cost about $234 annually for each paid staffer, and nearly $60 per volunteer, the memo says.

"There are a number of [funding] options that are available," Walker said.

The county could fund it through the Virginia Retirement System or self-fund it, he said.

A recent agenda summary provided to the board says that the risk with going through VRS is that costs could increase to help the system with benefits unrelated to Shenandoah County or to line-of-duty benefits.

Self-funding could be through the Virginia League Corporate Federal Credit Union (VACORP FCU), which the county uses for workers' compensation and other insurance, or on the county's own, not in a pool.

"Staff concern in this regard is the unknown amount that we would be required to pre-fund and the significant exposure to the County should the County be liable for one or more claims," the summary says.

County administration is recommending the VACORP option, Walker said. He said there are no active line-of-duty claims in the county. The cost to participate through VACORP would be $55,849 for fiscal 2012, Walker said.

That cost will go up to about $152,000 by fiscal 2015, his memo says.

Shenandoah County Sheriff's Maj. Scott Proctor said the line-of-duty coverage is crucial.

"It's an important benefit for anybody who's in public service or public safety that's exposed to basically hazardous duty," he said Friday. "It's a benefit that you could utilize in case [a] catastrophic event or traumatic event occurred. It's meant to help the officer and his family."

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