Will legislation aimed at giving local firefighters and EMS personnel a tax break help with shortages?
Volunteer fire and EMS agencies across New York State have been struggling to find willing bodies.
A couple weeks ago, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation that would allow these volunteers to receive a small tax exemption. The advocates say the hope is to help with recruitment and retention.
Like many other states New York has seen a steady, and equally concerning, decline in volunteer firefighters. That makes it hard to respond to calls in some communities. It also makes response time more difficult to manage in rural communities.
The new law allows local municipalities to provide a property tax exemption to volunteer firefighters. The exemption can be customized by community – allowing for savings up to 10%.
Still though, advocates worry about how it would be implemented. First, the property tax savings doesn’t address the ‘time availability’ issue that many who are thinking about volunteering consider. Advocates say many don’t think they have the time to volunteer, or are concerned about the personal economic implications of choosing to volunteer over picking up a second, part-time job. The second issue involves the need for local municipalities to opt-in to the program.
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