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Township officials approve firefighter tax credit

| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Dan Kuny, chief of the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department No. 1, said there is a need for more volunteers.
Dan Kuny, chief of the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department No. 1, said there is a need for more volunteers.

There are incentives for those who volunteer at fire departments in Hampton Township.

Hampton Township enacted Ordinance 799 of 2017 in October that provides a tax credit following certain criteria for volunteer firefighters of Hampton's two departments, according to the ordinance posted on the township website.

This is after Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law in 2016 bill that authorizes municipalities to grant local tax credits to its local volunteer firefighters.

According to the ordinance, each active volunteer firefighter certified under the Volunteer Service Credit Program for Hampton can receive a tax credit of up to $300 of the Earned Income Tax. More details on the credit and eligibility is listed online through the township website.

The ordinance is retroactive to January, per state law. Christopher Lochner, municipal manager for the township, said the North Hills Council of Government worked together on creating the program locally with each municipality enacting its own ordinance.

“As a municipality that provides one of the largest contributions to their volunteer fire department via our dedicated portion of our millage, council felt we should add this benefit for those that volunteer and put their safety in peril,” said Victor Son, who serves as president for township council.

Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Timothy Solobay said the tax credit put in place by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2016 allows municipalities to provide a credit on earned income tax or personal property tax. He would like to see more credits for firefighters but acknowledged “it's a beginning.”

There is also a partnership between the Community College of Allegheny County and the FireVEST program, or Allegheny County Fire Volunteer Education, Service and Training. This program provides full scholarships for an associate's degree or certificate program at CCAC, as well as training at the Allegheny County Fire Academy, according to the CCAC website.

The program offers 200 scholarships annually to those who commit to volunteer for at least five years, according to its website. Of those, 150 go toward new recruits, and 50 to existing volunteers.

Solobay said there is no incentive for employers currently that would encourage them to let staff leave for volunteer situations. But Solobay said they hope to work on coming up with a resolution in the future that would do that. It would be a very “narrow window” of who that would encompass, factoring in job titles, location of a volunteer's area of service in relation to their work place.

It would probably be more beneficial for employees that volunteer in the area where they work, he said.

“There is nothing in place for employers other than their dedication of community service for letting their employees leave work,” Solobay said.

Chief John Schwend of the North Hampton VFD said firefighters can reside in different townships than where they serve but their travel time to answer calls could be an issue. Dan Kuny, chief of Hampton VFD No. 1, also said their need for volunteers is ongoing.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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