JOHNSTOWN, CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Communities across the state struggle to get and retain fire volunteers, the Southmont Borough Council thinks a tax break could help their local fire department.
“We’re in a crisis, you know people come and people go,” says Michael Butler, Fire Chief for the Southmont Volunteer Fire Company.
He says like other fire companies, they are facing a serious shortage in volunteers.
That’s why the borough agreed to enact a 2017 State Ordinance that provides active members with tax credits.
“The purpose of it is to give incentive for people to volunteer for the fire company,” says President of the Southmont Borough Council, Sheree Speicher.
She says active members would receive 20% off of their municipal taxes.
Butler says they have between 20 and 25 volunteers but they’re not always available on a daily basis.
“You know when you’re running this with two or three people during the day, it’s kind of dangerous. You’re relying on mutual aid companies to come in a give you a hand,” says Butler.
He says there are more ways to get involved and still get the tax credit.
“To be an active member you can do the fundraising activities, you can attend the meetings and you can do that. You don’t have to go out fight fire if you don’t want to.”
Active members just have to have responded to 25% of the calls or participated in 25% of fundraising events.
Speicher says the tax credit is just a small gift for their sacrifice.
“The service that we get in exchange for it is above and beyond.”
Butler says you have to be a resident of the borough to be eligible and hopes the volunteers who live in other areas will also get the credit sometime in the future.