Can a volunteer municipal fire department maintain funds donated to the department, or raised for the department’s benefit by the department’s fundraising efforts, in a separate account in the fire department’s name and exercise exclusive control over the funds?
Yes, if authorized by ordinance. Wisconsin Stat. § 66.0608 provides that a municipality may enact an ordinance authorizing a particular official or employee of the municipality’s fire department, emergency medical services practitioner department, or emergency medical responder department (collectively, “department”) to deposit volunteer funds, in the department’s name, in a public depository. The ordinance may give the department, through the designated official or employee, exclusive control over the expenditure of volunteer funds of the department. Section 66.0608(1) defines “volunteer funds” as “emergency medical services practitioner volunteer funds, fire volunteer funds, or emergency medical responder volunteer funds” (each of which is separately defined in § 66.0608(1)).
A municipality may impose limitations on the designated control of volunteer funds. The authorizing ordinance may: (1) limit the type and amount of funds that may be deposited; (2) limit the amount of withdrawals that may be made from the account and the purposes for which withdrawals may be made. The ordinance may also impose audit and reporting requirements.
However, even if such an ordinance is enacted, volunteer funds remain the municipality’s property until disbursed. Wis. Stat § 66.0608(4). (rev. 5/22)