Penn Hills considering tax break for volunteer firefighters
Penn Hills council is considering giving the municipality's volunteer firefighters a tax break in 2019.
William Jeffcoat, chief of Station 227 on Universal Road, asked council at a recent meeting to consider implementing an earned local income tax credit of $948 for each qualifying firefighter in Penn Hills.
“Please — the time is now to help us get a new tool in our arsenal to drum up some support and some interest in volunteering in the Penn Hills fire service,” Jeffcoat said.
He said other communities have adopted such measures, citing Baldwin, which gives a $300 tax break to its about 50 firefighters.
“I feel our members are worth way more than that,” he said, adding that the municipality's six fire stations cover 19 square miles, compared to Baldwin's three stations that cover 5.9 square miles.
The fire chief said the municipality's departments answered 2,715 calls last year. There are roughly 200 firefighters in Penn Hills, but only about 120 would be eligible for the tax break, he said.
Under his proposal, firefighters would need to live in Penn Hills and run on at least 20 percent of the previous year's fire calls or attend 50 percent of department drills and meetings. Firefighters who have been volunteering with a department for 30 years or more would be automatically eligible, he said. Each station's chief would be required to provide the municipal manager with an eligibility list by Jan. 31 each year.
Mayor Sara Kuhn said she supports his proposal.
“I can't imagine our council not being supportive of this,” Kuhn said. “Anything that I feel we can do to show our appreciation to the volunteer firefighters, I think that's our job to do.”
Penn Hills is able to do this because Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law in 2016 that gave municipalities authorization to grant the local tax credits to firefighters.
Jeffcoat said he will meet with the Penn Hills manager to discuss the tax break in the coming weeks. Once the details are ironed out, the municipality's solicitor will draft an ordinance, which will then be voted on by council.