Penn. Council to Give Tax Credit to Fire, EMS Personnel
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
Sept. 06—Borough council approved a tax credit ordinance Wednesday night that will give borough fire company volunteers a tax break, a measure fire officials hope will increase active membership.
Officials modeled the ordinance after one enacted in Jessup in September. A state law authorizes municipalities to offer incentives, including tax credits, to attract and retain volunteer fire and ambulance personnel. Under the Clarks Summit ordinance, an eligible volunteer who is a borough resident can receive a 20 percent rebate on municipal property taxes, the maximum amount allowable under the state law.
"Hopefully, this will spur some interest in volunteering, either people we already have or new members coming in," borough fire Chief Jay Miller said at the meeting.
The ordinance passed 6-0. Council Vice President David Jenkins abstained because of his involvement with the fire company.
The municipal property tax rate in Clarks Summit is 33.5 mills. A house assessed at $18,000, the median residential assessment in the borough, carries a municipal real estate tax bill of $603, according to 2014 county assessor's office information. That would yield a tax credit of $120.60 under the ordinance.
Non-property owners can opt for an earned income tax break of $150 in lieu of a property tax credit, which could encourage younger people to volunteer with the fire company, Borough Manager Virginia Kehoe said.
Eligibility criteria that must be met in order to qualify for the credit is based on factors including the number of calls to which a volunteer responds, participation in formal training and drills, time spent on administrative and support duties such as fundraising, bookkeeping and facility and equipment maintenance, and the number of years a volunteer has served. The criteria could also inspire current members to be more active with the department in order to qualify for the credit, Miller said.
While the department is sufficiently staffed for emergencies, active membership has taken a hit over the years, Miller said. Firefighters have been using other means, like visiting schools and using social media to recruit younger people for involvement with the department, in efforts to bolster the ranks, he said.
"We're OK, but we do notice our numbers have dwindled," Miller said.