The Starke County commissioners this week discussed the county policy regarding employee fringe benefits, specifically the necessary qualifications to utilize a county-owned vehicle in traveling to and from work and home without paying the fringe benefit tax. The commissioners questioned who qualifies for a vehicle according to state law, and county attorney Marty Lucas explained that the vehicle must be a clearly-marked public safety officer vehicle and can only be provided to an individual serving a public agency in an official capacity related to safety.
While firefighters, police officers, chaplains and EMS employees would obviously qualify, the question remains as to whether or not IT Director Joe Short and Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler could take advantage of county-owned vehicles while they’re not “on the clock.” Lucas said he feels Ritzler would not qualify because he feels removing a tree from the road is not considered a rescue operation.
To remedy the situation, Commissioner Kathy Norem recommended having all county employees with county-owned vehicles plead their case in writing as to why they should be exempt from the fringe benefit tax. The requests would be reviewed by Lucas, and Norem said they should be submitted by Friday.