Tax Relief

Councilor requests tax breaks for volunteer firefighters in Erie County

West Ridge Fire Chief Gerald DeRosa received $ 60 last year when he and 10 others filed for Millcreek Township’s new property tax incentive for volunteer firefighters.

Making or breaking a volunteer’s decision to stay active in the department is not enough, DeRosa said. It’s also not enough to lure new volunteers into the dwindling ranks of volunteer firefighters – even when combined with the $ 100 tax credit the state has been offering since 2008 or the tax credit offered by the community that adds to the local tax liability Applicant equates up to $ 1000.

“If someone submits an application today and wants to do this, they want to be a volunteer. $ 100 or $ 200 is not going to affect them one way or the other,” said DeRosa, who has been a volunteer firefighter since 1975. But if you’ve been doing this job for years and never got anything, and now all of a sudden someone says, “Hey, look, it’s very possible that you end up getting $ 200 or $ 300 back a year, ‘that means a lot, it does it really. “

More relief for volunteer firefighters in Erie County could be on the way if their Kim Council County Council colleagues respond to their request for a similar property tax credit.

Clearly suggested Thursday that eligible volunteer firefighters receive a 20% discount on their property tax bill – the same size discount offered on Millcreek Township property taxes.

More:Taxpayers will not face a penalty on their 2021 tax bill if paid in full by the end of the new year

“We all in the county know what our volunteer firefighters have come up against and what they’re up to,” said Clear, who represents most of the Millcreek community. “Unfortunately, they have had low numbers (of volunteers) right now in Pennsylvania and the United States.

“People are busy,” she said. “They have young children. They have families. It is difficult to find time for anything else,” Clear continued. “When people retire, we just don’t fill the positions the way we used to. Hopefully the offer can convince some people to sign up.”

Clear’s proposal is based on the same state law from 2016 that allowed Millcreek Township and numerous other parishes across the state to provide incentives.

Erie County Council attorney Tom Talarico said there was no language in the law that would allow counties to provide such a tax credit, but neither was there any language that would prohibit it. Talarico plans to investigate the legal issue further.

Not every volunteer is qualified. They must live and own a house in Millcreek Township for property tax. You also need to earn points all year round.

Volunteers are required to respond to emergency calls, take part in exercises, attend departmental meetings, perform traffic control tasks, among other things. They earn one point every time they participate in such an activity. The regulation originally stipulated that volunteers must earn at least 150 points per year to qualify for the incentive. However, it has since been lowered for the 2020 tax year as departments saw a dramatic drop in calls due to COVID-19.

Millcreek regulators approved the incentive program in late 2018 and it went into effect for the 2019 tax year. According to Mark Zaksheske, administrative director and treasurer of Millcreek Township, 53 volunteer firefighters received the land tax credit in the first year of the program when they filed their 2019 taxes last year.

Most of those who have received the Voluntary Loan for the West Lake, West Ridge, Lakeshore, and Kearsarge Volunteer Fire Departments. There were fewer recipients with the Belle Valley Fire Department because many of its members live in the city of Erie, Zaksheske said.

He assumes that roughly the same number will take advantage of the loan this year.

“We’re trying to do what we can to support them,” he said.

One downside to the program is that it is limited in scope, said supervisor Jim Bock.

“It’s a bit isolated for the particular criteria that are used,” he said. “You have to be a property owner. You can’t rent. That limits it. So the pool of applicants is reduced right after the shoot.”

DeRosa said 11 West Ridge volunteer firefighters applied for the tax credit last year. This year, 27 of the department’s 35 volunteers are applying.

It would be “huge” to add a loan for the county property taxes, Clear hopes, “DeRosa said.

“It could get some gasoline money to and from the fire station,” he said, noting that the volunteers incur travel expenses. “All we get, you know, we have open arms for.”

Contact Matthew Rink at Follow him on Twitter at @ETNrink.

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