CLIFTON PARK — Later this month Clifton Park will hold a public hearing on a proposed local law that gives volunteer members of fire and ambulances services a property tax exemption.
The hearing is set for Monday, Feb. 27 at 7:05 p.m. at the Town Hall.
The law would allow members of volunteer fire departments and ambulance services and their spouses a property tax exemption of 10% on property used for residential purposes.
“This is a new opportunity for the town, as all taxing jurisdictions must hold a public hearing making the decision on this matter,” Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said.
A decision about the law would need to be made by March 1 in order for those eligible for the exemption to receive it for the next tax year, Barrett explained. If passed, eligible volunteers will have to have served a minimum of two years to receive the exemption. Volunteers who serve over 20 years of active service and their spouses would receive the 10% exemption for life.
“Personally, I’m hopeful that this initiative will work to help with recruitment and retention,” Barrett said. “It might be the best tool for that effort.”
Town Assessor Walter Smead said he is in the process of talking with the various volunteer districts about the proposed law and the application process. The property receiving the exemption would have to be the primary residence of the volunteer.
Firefighter and Vischer Ferry Fire District Commissioner Marty Schanz spoke at the Town Board meeting on behalf of all the fire companies in town, he said. Schanz thanked the board for its consideration of the legislation. Around 15 volunteers from different fire districts attended the meeting to show support of the legislation.
“As you’re all aware the falling numbers of volunteers throughout the state, and throughout the country is a very large problem for us,” Schanz said. “We feel that this law is going to be a big help, and a very good tool in the future for retention and recruiting new members.”
The 10% exemption for life for volunteers who have served over 20 years would help retention, Schanz said. The proposed legislation also encourages members to stay in town, he said.
“After two years, the district has invested a lot of money in training, gear, and outfitting,” Schanz said. “That’s why the two-year time limit was picked throughout the state. After two years you have taken your mandatory state training, so there’s quite a bit of dollars that the taxpayers have invested at that point, so anything we can do to keep you, that’s definitely money back to the taxpayer.”
The option for the local law comes after the state passed legislation in December amending the Real Property Tax Law. The state legislation allowed local municipalities the option of providing a property tax exemption of up to 10%
“The cost of not having us would be much greater than what that 10% represents, that’s for sure,” Schanz said. “We could never afford to do that.”