N.Y. town gives 10% property tax break to volunteers
The exemption for fire, EMS volunteers with two years of service is a way to help recruitment and retention efforts
By Chad Arnold
The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y.
GLENVILLE, N.Y. — Glenville is the latest municipality to extend a property tax exemption to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.
The Town Board, earlier this month, unanimously approved legislation granting a 10% property tax break to volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers with two years of service. The tax break extends only to the primary residence of qualified individuals.
Municipalities throughout the region have adopted similar ordinances in recent months after Gov. Kathy Hochul last year approved legislation allowing local governments and other taxing districts to offer the exemption as a way to help recruitment and retention efforts for volunteer emergency services.
Lawmakers in Rotterdam, Niskayuna and Schenectady County have previously approved the exemption.
Supervisor Chris Koetzle said this week that the town took the time to examine how best to move forward with the tax break and reached out to other taxing entities in town to ensure that there would be no errors before moving forward.
"We're hoping it's a nice benefit that will help with recruitment because we need people in these volunteer fire departments," he said. this is a tool to help recruitment," he said.
Volunteer departments throughout the state for years have been struggling to recruit and retain members, which local officials have said can be attributed to the hours of required training and busier work and personal schedules.
A report issued last year by the state's Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment & Retention Task Force found that the state had 20,000 less volunteer firefighters than 20 years ago, but the call volume facing departments has doubled over the past 30 years, from 750,000 to 1.4 million annually.
The task force was assembled as a way to address declining volunteer membership.
Joe LaCoppola, the commissioner of Glenville Fire District #2, told lawmakers that the exemption would be "an essential tool" to help with recruitment efforts locally.
"Recruitment and retention is top of mind for not only our department, but departments throughout the state," he said. "We're excited about recruitment incentives and this property tax benefit before you today is an essential tool we can add to our recruitment and retention toolkit."
Qualified individuals must apply annually for the exemption, but the tax break becomes permanent for those with 20 years of qualified service.
It's unclear how many individuals in town would qualify for the exemption, though Koetzle estimated the number to be around 300.
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