Pa. official to conduct review of volunteer FF funding

The state’s auditor general said he wants to ensure volunteer agencies are receiving the maximum state aid

By Laura French

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s auditor general has announced a review of volunteer firefighter funding to ensure relief associations are receiving the maximum amount of state aid.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said in a press release last week that he will continue to urge legislators to give volunteer firefighters’ relief associations (VFRAs) more flexibility to use state aid to meet their specific local needs.

“When state funding changes from year to year it creates yet another financial headache for men and women who sign up to protect their communities,” DePasquale said during a visit to a Mechanicsburg fire station. “I am working with the Department of Revenue to review how the funding is collected and allocated to determine if it can be stabilized so firefighters know how much they can count on from the state each year.”

In Pennsylvania, state aid for VFRAs comes from a 2% state tax on fire insurance premiums purchased by state residents from out-of-state insurance companies. Last year, about $60.1 million was allocated to VFRAs throughout the state, up from about $55.3 million in 2018 but down from $60.6 million in 2017 and $65.6 million in 2016, according to data from DePasquale’s office.

Allocations decreased year after year from 2013 to 2017, peaking at about $72.5 million seven years ago.

“(Last year) was the first time since I took office that VFRAs funding had increased over the previous year,” DePasquale said. “That’s good news, but no one can predict how much money will be available next year and that makes it difficult for fire companies already struggling with dwindling volunteers and increasing demands for fundraising.”

DePasquale added that he has repeatedly called on state lawmakers to decrease the tight restrictions on how the state aid can be spent.

“I want to make sure that the law governing the use of state aid is keeping up with the changes in how fire services are provided and can be used to help recruit more volunteers,” he said.


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