Pa. county considers $150 tax rebate for volunteer firefighters, EMS
Lancaster County commissioners hope municipalities do the same to support first responders
By Tom Lisi
LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — Lancaster County commissioners set the stage Wednesday to provide a $150 property tax rebate to volunteer firefighters and emergency services personnel next year.
County officials have written the incentive into a draft ordinance that must first be advertised to the public before passing into law. Commissioners said Wednesday they hope to approve the ordinance before the end of the year.
Leaders of the Lancaster County Fire Chiefs Association said at a commissioners meeting Wednesday that they expect the credit to apply to 1,000 of the county’s 3,000 volunteer emergency responders.
Only firefighters and ambulance personnel who own homes can take advantage of the county’s planned rebate, but commissioners said they hoped the move would encourage municipalities to establish their own rebates. Unlike county governments, municipalities in Pennsylvania are permitted to levy income taxes on residents, and could make rebates available to emergency responders who do not own property.
Many suburban and rural communities in Lancaster County rely on volunteer companies for fire service, a model that has suffered financial setbacks in recent years. Many volunteer companies cannot keep up with growing costs and struggle to find new recruits.
Difficulty finding new volunteers in the county is less of a problem compared to other parts of the state, officials said Wednesday. The county’s 3,000 emergency volunteers represent 10% of the entire volunteer force in Pennsylvania, according to Duane Ober, Warwick Emergency Services Commission fire commissioner.