© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawmakers increase access to tax break for firefighters

The Onondaga County Legislature is making it easier for volunteer firefighters to take advantage of a property tax exemption, lowering the number of required years of service from five to two.

Legislator Dave Knapp (R-District 12) said lawmakers made the change based on feedback they received from local departments.

"They said, 'That's great for keeping people that we already have, but for recruiting new people, five years seems like a long time,' and so, we said, 'Yeah, we agree,'" Knapp said.

John D’Alessandro from the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) said incentives like the tax break are crucial. He said in the early 200s, there were about 120,000 volunteer firefighters statewide. Now, there are only about 80,000. And that’s not the only stressor.

"Every fire department has seen an increase in the number of calls,” D’Alessandro said. “The complexity of those calls is going up, and frankly, we're being asked to go far outside our own communities to provide service."

D’Alessandro said a recent study shows in salary and benefits alone, the volunteer fire service saves taxpayers more than $3 billion a year. While he said the volunteer shortage is a complex problem, the tax break may free up people’s budgets enough to allow them to donate their time.

Some local lawmakers agree.

"We need to give as many incentives as we can to help them help us because if we had to pay to go to a totally paid force, it would just be an incredible expense,” said Knapp.

Volunteer ambulance workers are also eligible for the property tax break in Onondaga County. Knapp said the new benefits are effective immediately for first responders who meet the qualifications.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, click here.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.