Volunteer FFs, EMS providers exempt from N.Y. county property taxes
"We ... hope this exemption helps efforts to attract more volunteers to our fire and ambulance companies, to enable more life-saving work that benefits us all," a Rensselaer County executive said
The Record, Troy, N.Y.
EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. — Rensselaer County will recognize the service and dedication of volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance company members by offering a 10 percent county property tax exemption, Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin and members of the County Legislature announced.
The county property tax exemption would also support recruitment and retention efforts across the county, McLaughlin and legislators noted.
"Rensselaer County owes an enormous debt of gratitude to our emergency services volunteers for their outstanding and valuable service. We can never fully repay that debt, but this exemption will help show our appreciation and support for their work," McLaughlin said in a recent news release.
"We also hope this exemption helps efforts to attract more volunteers to our fire and ambulance companies, to enable more life-saving work that benefits us all," McLaughlin added.
The county exemption comes two weeks after the opening of the county Emergency Services Training Complex in North Greenbush. The complex features state-of-the-art training devices and equipment and will help prepare first responders to protect county residents and property.
In 2021, McLaughlin introduced the Rensselaer County Responds effort which used county savings to provide $10,000 in funding to all fire and ambulance companies across the county, along with youth and veteran organizations.
"Rensselaer County has made a significant investment in supporting our brave men and women in our emergency services. We have provided funds to support departments, completed a major project to improve training and education, and are now supporting this property tax exemption," McLaughlin explained.
The county property tax exemption will be considered for approval at the Feb. 12 legislative meeting. If approved, the exemption would take effect for the 2024 county tax bills, county officials noted.
"Our volunteer firefighters dedicate their time and energy to helping protect our homes and property without receiving any compensation. The Legislature appreciates their service, and we look forward to reviewing and adopting the Local Law that is required to grant these tax exemptions for them. Hopefully, this will help retain and attract new firefighters in our communities," Chair of the Rensselaer County Legislature Kelly Hoffman remarked.
"Volunteer firefighters sacrifice their nights and weekends training, and are on call 24 hours a day, ready in times of emergency. It is hard to put a price on all that they spend out of their own pockets, to serve us at no cost, so a partial exemption on their property taxes is a good first step," Vice Chair Bob Loveridge commented.
"I am proud to support and cast my Vote In Favor of this Rensselaer County Local Law!" Legislator Tom Grant said. "We thank the members of our Volunteer Emergency Services for the countless days and nights they devote to keeping our communities safe."
"This property tax exemption is a great way to recognize the service of these men and women who bravely volunteer to serve our communities by placing themselves in harm's way. As a board member of the Town of Hoosick Rescue Squad, I am very grateful and supportive of this initiative to recognize and reward the service of our volunteers," Legislator Bruce Patire added.
State legislation was approved earlier this year allowing for the property tax exemption to be offered to municipalities.
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy announced Monday that he is introducing new legislation to the Albany County Legislature that would provide 10% real property tax exemptions to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel. This exemption will be eligible for Albany County residents who are enrolled members of an incorporated volunteer fire company, fire department or incorporated voluntary ambulance service that provide such services within the county.
"As a former firefighter, I know the very real sacrifices first responders and their families make each day that these individuals go into work. This new property tax exemption for volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel shows them that their bravery and selflessness have not gone unnoticed," McCoy said in a news release from his office on Monday. "But we also know that many communities rely on these volunteer services for their safety, and we need to ensure that positions are filled. It's my hope that this tax incentive will allow us to attract even more talented individuals to these firehouses and ambulance services."
For those who have been active members of an incorporated volunteer fire company, fire department or incorporated voluntary ambulance service for at least twenty years and who have since retired, they would be granted the 10% tax exemption for the remainder of their lives. Additionally, the un-remarried surviving spouses of volunteers who lost their lives in the line of duty or otherwise are also eligible for the property tax exemption under specifically designated circumstances.
"Volunteer firefighters are the very backbone of emergency response and rescue operations in so many communities in Albany County," Albany County Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce said. " The Albany County Legislature has been working closely with our Director of Real Property and the County Executive's team to make this idea a reality at a time where the number of volunteer firefighters are dwindling. It's our expectation that tax exemptions, better compensation and more training options will draw more brave individuals into the volunteer fire and emergency medical services."
"This is such an important initiative. It is increasingly difficult to get individuals to fill these positions and this is just one thing that the County can do to assist in the recruitment for volunteer firefighters and EMS workers," said Majority Leader Dennis Feeney.
"The Republican & Conservative Conference of the Albany County Legislature is in full support of pursuing this important benefit for those who put their lives on the line in the name of public safety," said Minority Leader Frank A. Mauriello. "As a former Commissioner of the Midway Fire District, Town of Colonie, I can attest to the need for enhanced recruiting benefits for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers. Besides the recruiting aspect to this exemption, as a society it's important that we recognize the sacrifices these individuals make, and enacting a property tax exemption will go a long way in offsetting the long hours of training and dangerous situations our volunteers subject themselves to."
Once passed by the full Albany County Legislature, this local law will take effect on January 1, 2024 and shall apply to taxable status dates occurring on or after such date.
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