Legislation would enhance tax exemption for Steuben County volunteers
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Albany, N.Y.-- The New York State Senate has approved legislation sponsored by State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) to help Steuben County recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.
"Steuben County is experiencing a severe shortage of volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers. It is critical to the well-being of our communities to address this shortage. We're hopeful that this legislation could help to attract and retain badly needed volunteers," said Winner, noting that the measure is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman James Bacalles (R-C, Corning). It is currently in the Assembly Real Property Taxation Committee and is expected to be approved by the Assembly.
In 2002, the state Legislature authorized Steuben County to provide a 10% real property tax exemption on the primary residence of a volunteer firefighter or ambulance worker with at least five years of service. The Winner-Bacalles legislation approved today by the Senate, at the request of the Steuben County Legislature, would increase the current maximum level of the exemption from $3,000 to $5,000, and decrease the number of service years required for a volunteer to be eligible for the exemption from five to two years.
"These volunteers save lives, protect property and provide essential services that otherwise would impose a huge financial burden on local governments. They deserve our strong support," said Winner, who also continues to sponsor additional volunteer recruitment legislation known as the "Emergency Services Volunteer Incentive Act." Among several other incentives, the act would allow emergency services volunteers to participate in certain public employee health insurance plans.
"State and local governments should recognize and reward the critical role emergency services volunteers play in our communities," Winner said.
The number of volunteer firefighters nationally has declined 10 percent over the past 20 years, while the number of calls to volunteer fire companies rose 50 percent or more. In New York State, the number of volunteers has dropped by at least 11,000 over the past three to five years, to 109,000, according to the Fire Association of the State of New York.